Beloved it is Epiphany---a word that means revelation…..an aha moment……an awakening.
And tonight’s story from the Gospel echoes all too clearly the Epiphany we need to have right now, today, January 6th, 2021. Herod, a power-hungry leader, was willing to kill thousands of children for the sake of hanging onto his power. In our nation’s capitol, power-hungry leaders, and their followers, were willing to put lives on the line all for the sake of maintaining power. With this Gospel story echoing in our ears, we are seeing and hearing on our screens what happens to humanity when it becomes too enamored with its own power. When the thought of losing one’s power overtakes the human heart and desperation sets in.
Desperation that is then acted out by inciting fear and violence---insurrection and divisiveness----lawlessness and lovelessness…..whether in the country of Egypt or on the steps of a Capitol building. The story playing out in Washington D.C. tonight is the story of Matthew, Chapter 2---our Gospel tonight. When maintaining power is more important to humanity than the common good, the will of the people, the will of the Divine, and Love.
But, Beloved, let us not move---as we so often do---to name calling and labeling one another so we know which side each of us stands on. Yes, we should hold those whose words and actions have led to this violence and this threat to our democracy accountable. We are each called to use our voices, our votes, and our influence to empower our public servants to uphold our nation’s laws and Constitution in order to set our society back on a road of civility and justice.
But, Beloved, let’s not be too quick to let ourselves off the hook. This day was not made in a moment, or even in a 4-year span…..this is a moment that has been in the making since our nation began. And each of us plays a part in it. Now, if you are like me, until these past few years, I have foolishly thought that I haven’t taken part in this growing mess. But we all have. Because since 1776, this nation has not only tolerated, but we have baked into our systems, our institutions, our ways of being, our definition of what is America and American---some pretty abhorrent things: white supremacy, racism, nationalism, fear of the foreigner, toxic masculinity, socioeconomic oppression, classicism.
So, Beloved, if like me you are horrified by what you are seeing on our screens, then join me---join the Christ---in this Epiphany. Waking up to the shadows within our systems, within our culture, within our structures, within our hearts. Wake up and shine the Christ light there. Let us learn our own complicity, and then let us own it. And change it. And become who we proclaim to be. Not only as Christians…..but as Americans. E Pluribus Unum---that’s our motto: From the Many, One.
There is no time for further name-calling and labelling. We must heal our wounds. We must find ways to work toward justice---God’s sense of justice which demands mutuality, diversity and inclusion---we must find ways, and demand our public servants to find ways, to work together toward the Common Good. The Common Good which is an ideal of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and all major world faiths. After all, Beloved, the side we stand on is the same side. We are all on one side---humanity’s side, creation’s side---the side for which our Holy God never ceases to stop working. And neither shall we.
Herod would rather that we remain asleep. That we do not wake up to our complicity; that we leave it as it is. Conserve the status quo; let the power remain where it lies. But, Beloved, we have heard the angels and we have seen this Star. Wake up Beloved. Bring your gifts; pay homage with your lives. We are God’s Beloved Community----E Pluribus Unum.
Jane Johnson is the pastor and priest of the Beloved Community of Intercession Episcopal and Redeemer Lutheran.