Note: My column for the January 29 issue of The Chosen Word, the newsletter of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church:
Lift up your eyes and look around; …and then you shall see and be radiant.(Isaiah 60:4-5)
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. And where you invest your love, you invest your life…Awake my soul. Awake my soul. (Mumford & Sons, Awake My Soul, 2009)
To kick off the New Year, Anna B (the director of Christian Education) and I traveled to the Montreat College Conference from January 2-5 with 10 amazing young adults from PHPC. It probably goes without saying, but we had a wonderful time together—laughing, playing, listening, talking, discerning, worshipping, praying and seeking God’s presence at Montreat and in our daily lives.
The theme of the conference, Seeking Stars, focused on the day of Epiphany—the celebration of God’s manifestation of self-revelation to the world in Jesus Christ—on January 6. Through keynotes, sermons, music and workshops, the conference leaders helped 800 participants to see (as the magi did) the light illuminating the darkness of our world.
Of all the messages shared about the meaning of Epiphany, the words of the dynamic conference preacher Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness in Washington D.C., remain close to my heart weeks later: Jesus came as a reminder of our responsibility to redeem the broken world in which we live through the power God has given us. Each of us is a manifestation of God’s love in the world. Each of us has the responsibility to share the redeeming love of God with those who do not know it, and do it in such a way that it is a reflection of the miracle that God can do in us. We are an epiphany of God.”
Many Christians, thoughtful Presbyterians included, spend too much time it seems on where folks will end up when this life is over or what will become of the poor sinners or when and how God will show up to take the righteous to heaven. We fret (almost unnecessarily) about salvation and eternal life to the point that we ignore or forget that God is already present in the world! God’s love is here at this exact moment! And Emmanuel (God- with-us) calls us to embody daily that unconditional, sacrificial love in word and deed. As the author Marianne Williamson writes, “We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same” By shining in God’s love for others, we inevitably free others to also shine in God’s love and on and on and on.
The possibilities for how the world can be transformed are endless once we lift up our eyes and see God in the midst. May our souls be awakened and invested in the love of God. Not tomorrow or hundreds of tomorrows, but today. Always and forever today. Amen.