The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 15, 2023

November 27, 2022 | by Bruce Epperly

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Isaiah 49:1-7 Psalm 40:1-11 I Corinthians 1:1-9 John 1:29-42

In this season of Epiphany, we train our eyes for God’s presence in expected and unexpected places. God is here, walking among us, but will we train our senses for an epiphany and will we ask the right questions of the Way Maker? The gospel readings frame our reflections with two questions and one response.  First, from Jesus, “What are you looking for?” Then, the disciples, “Where are you staying?”  To which Jesus responds, “Come and see.”  In this curious COVID time, when Christianity is in upheaval, not just in recovery from the pandemic and the reality of new habits of church attendance, but also the ubiquity of hate, exclusion, and nationalistic idolatry fomented by America’s most vocal Christians whose actions and words betray the spirit of Jesus.

In the Gospel reading, John’s sharing of his mystical experience of the Spirit descending on the baptized Jesus inspires John’s companions to go on a spiritual quest.  They want to know who this Spirit-called one is, they want to see if he is the One Called by God to Heal the World and Save the Nation.  People are “looking” then and now. Looking for an honest, life-affirming, spiritually-inspiring, intellectually-satisfying, and justice-seeking faith.  In some way or other, folks want experience (mysticism and spirituality), health and wholeness (healing), and commitment to a hopeful future (prophetic).  We want healing for ourselves, our families, and our nation and planet, and too often many of us settle for false substitutes rather than embarking on the hard work of spiritual pilgrimage, critical thinking, and self-transcendence,

Still, folks want to know “where” they can find this open-spirited energetic spirituality, and without undue pressure to set them right our response must be, “come and see.”  We want to know in a world and nation at risk where we can find peace, direction, and hope. Perhaps, the answer is in relationship to the Healer, Savior, and Teacher Jesus. Look at Christianity again, for the first time, to paraphrase Marcus Borg, and you may find the answer you need and the courage and energy to transform your world.

Progressive, process-oriented, and open and relational Christianity have a vocation to be a spiritual, intellectual, and ethical home for seekers, recovering evangelicals and fundamentalists, people without religious training, and the seekers within our own churches.  Like Isaiah, we may not feel up to the task.  We are small, often just getting by as congregations, and want to simply get back to “normal.” We feel as if we, like Israel, have labored in vain, and may not even make it to the 2030’s.  In contrast to our sense of hopelessness, God tells us that our vision of vocation is too small.  Like Israel, we are chosen to be a light to the nations, to provide a path for wholeness, spirituality, and justice in an otherwise chaotic, uncertain, and hopeless time.  To paraphrase Jeremiah, God promises us a future with hope.  To recall Whitehead, the aim of God for the human adventure and our congregational life is not just to live, to survive, but to live well, to flourish, and then to live better, to be a bright light for God and a voice for a just, inclusive, spiritually energetic, and hopeful future.  We are to become partners in God’s vision of salvation.

The Psalm reminds us to wait for God.  We have to be agents, but we must have patience with the pace of transformation. We can trust the good work we are doing, and the good work God is doing in our lives, and congregations, and also persevere, waiting for the seeds to sprout and grow to fruition.  We are promised a new song, and this song comes through faithful openness to God’s vision, prayerful practices, and open-spirited outreach.  Stay on the course, let God’s heart guide your heart, and you will fulfill your destiny as God’s companion in healing earth and its peoples.

To the troubled church in Corinth, uncertain of its future, Paul provides words of promise and hope: “for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind;  just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you; so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  You have what you need.  You have the gifts you need to face the realities that confront you. Within the limitations of concrete life lie unexpected possibilities.  Attention to our current state and our own ambivalence about the future is essential, but within the current state is the womb of possibility, and we need to be midwives of the future God imagines for us.  God is at work in our lives. God will not give up on us, but will give us inspiration and energy appropriate to our context and personal history and decision-making. Each moment emerges with new possibilities for our immediate experience, and long term future, for ourselves and also for our congregations.  We need to remember where we have experienced transformation in the past and let these memories open our eyes to divine epiphanies in the present.

The Holy One, the one sought by the first followers of Jesus, is among us, so says the Gospel. Christ is with us and in us, and our lives are unfolding in God’s ever-expanding arc of history, despite its apparent hiddenness and the apparent victories of the forces of evil. Within our communities we may find what we are looking for and become beacons for other seekers.  The future is open and the God working in our lives and our churches will bless and nurture every good gift.

Bruce Epperly is a pastor, professor, spiritual guide, and author of over seventy books, including The Elephant Is Running: Process and Open and Relational Theology and Religious Pluralism; Prophetic Healing: Howard Thurman’s Vision Of Contemplative Activism; Mystic’s In Action: Twelve Saints For Today; Walking With Saint Francis: From Privilege To Activism; Messy Incarnation: Meditations On Process Christology, and From Cosmos To Cradle: Meditations On The Incarnation. His latest book is The Prophetic Amos Speaks To America. He can be reached for seminars and talks at