What Do We do with the Theophany (God’s Appearance “in the flesh”)?

The elections of last November ended the flurry of speeches and ads with everyone making promises of how much better things would be if they were elected. Now no politician, who really wanted to be elected would stand up and say, “If you vote for me you’ll have to make incredible sacrifices, financial and otherwise. You’ll go through times of uncertainty and feeling fearful, often not being able to be with your families, sometimes feel stretched to the limit before you see any change.” If the candidate is not heckled, he/she will be simply ignored at best. However, if someone leading an important expedition, say to get emergency medicines and help to a desolate group cut off from the rest of the world, traveling through dangerous lands and high cliffs in often horrible weather, that is precisely the kind of language one would expect to hear.

The people involved with the Incarnating of the Son of God saw this as a great endeavor that required sacrifices, focus, adjustment of schedules and lifestyles.

Theophany (“appearance/manifestation of God”) is a call to action, not just a nice sentimental feeling. But as the world’s view of Church is like an extra-curricular activity one attends to meet one’s own religious/social needs, Jesus’ call to discipleship too often is treated as one would treat the above mentioned politicians. The people involved with the Incarnating of the Son of God saw this as a great endeavor that required sacrifices, focus, adjustment of schedules and lifestyles. Having a baby is a serious adjustment to begin with. For the Virgin Mary and Joseph it was an even greater one (the least of which was their reputation), fraught with incredible danger (as “adultery” in ancient Judaism was a capital offense). The treacherous travel to Bethlehem near the time of birthing, a ruthless monarch (not to mention the Roman Emperor being venerated a son of god, benefactor and lord of the world) who would do whatever it took to get rid of the competition for his throne, even if it meant at least killing all the male children two years and under in a town. Joachim and Anna, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and the Prophet Anna (not to mention John the Baptist) who came to find and proclaim this newborn and true Lord of the world did so at the incredible risk of their lives (some like John, paid the full price) and their families.

This is the “expedition” all these people (the Theotokos, Joseph, etc) saw and were serving that we celebrate in being are called to be part of God’s recreation and rescue of the world.

In the midst of this was the Reality of the true Son of God, who was everything that God is, immersing Himself in everything that humanity is to rescue us and creation from corruption and death that so poisons us through the toxin of sin. This is the “expedition” all these people (the Theotokos, Joseph, etc) saw and were serving that we celebrate in being are called to be part of God’s recreation and rescue of the world.

All Biblical thought sees that loving and serving God is always expressed in our service and interaction within the Community…

All Biblical thought sees that loving and serving God is always expressed in our service and interaction within the Community of His people, from ancient Israel to the Church. Church, the Eucharistic Community that is the direct extension of Christ’s actual body) is the way and place that God chooses to manifest Himself. This is clearly the vision we have and continually need to foster here at St Matthew’s. Like the word “liturgia” (liturgy-“work of the people”), but it is a work of disciples (apprentices) of Christ Himself creating a relational environment (as reflective of the Trinity) where we see lives change and heal.

But (Theophany shows)…humanity itself, in the Person and flesh of Jesus, coming out of the Jordan River is brought into the “Community” of God.

We celebrate Christ’s birth (12/25), circumcision 1/1), meeting in the Temple (2/1), culminating in and revolving around the Baptism (1/6). Jesus is not only the full embodiment of all that God is, but also the full embodiment of humanity. All four Gospels speak of Christ’s baptism. This is because it is not only the revelation (manifestation) of the Triune God, but also (and just as importantly), now a human being, humanity itself, in the Person and flesh of Jesus, coming out of the Jordan River is brought into the “Community” of God. This Reality transcends and informs/affects all our realities. This Reality, this ongoing rescue, inaugurated and accomplished by Christ, is what we partner with and willing to make sacrifices for. The reality of our relationship with God is totally intertwined with our service and relating within the Community-they are never separate. We are all responsible for the life of Christ and the Parish.

The Theotokos and Joseph didn’t think if Jesus were killed by Herod, another baby who could do the same thing could be found.  …there are extremely few parishes like St Matthew’s in this hemisphere reaching out to integrate all people, regardless of background, into the healing life of the Christ within the Church

The next few months are critical for St Matthew’s. The call for an increase of commitment to make ourselves truly self sustaining involves all of us. While keeping the goal of tithing, (when we are really giving what we can), we look all the more to contribute time and talent (which is a given even if we tithe) when we can’t fully give ten percent. It might mean letting go sometimes of other committees, activities, etc, for awhile (if others can make excuses for why they don’t come to church, we have the best excuses for why we can’t be involved in other things). While some can give more we will continue to do more fund raisers as in the last couple of months and increase the success of the ones we’ve had (e.g. Book Sale, Gyro Fests, and Pastry & Bread Sale, etc) and find other ways. (But if we really can’t give more time, we need to look to increasing the financial giving.) In terms of evangelism: Who can we speak with, invite to Church, Bible or book studies? (Don’t forget the “Eastern Christian Gifts for Western Christians” on Saturday, December 11). Having an evening meeting with coffee at our homes (maybe even during a house blessing) can be a great way to introduce outsiders to Orthodoxy and St Matthew’s. Three people were baptized and chrismated in November. Many visitor’s were invited to that (even most Orthodox haven’t seen a baptism in the middle of Liturgy as it was originally practiced) as well as to our weekend Parish Name Day celebration. Every third Sunday is Visitor’s Sunday-are we inviting and praying as to who to invite to Church? The Theotokos and Joseph didn’t act as if Jesus were killed by Herod, another baby who could do the same thing could be found. That is how it sounds when some may tell us to just fold and join up with bigger parishes. While every parish is unique, there are extremely few parishes like St Matthew’s in this hemisphere reaching out to integrate all people, regardless of background, into the healing life of the Christ within the Church. The Lord has appeared and is among us. Let us continue to cooperate with that Reality in and as His body (Church) that we may be seen with Christ when He appears at the end of time.

May the Lord bless all of us with an always increasing awareness of His powerful loving connection to us.

Blessings to you and your loved ones during these Holy Days.

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