We attended Pacific Beach United Methodist Church today which began a six week Season of Epiphany series on Science and Spirituality, including weekly opportunities to "eat with a scientist" in the congregation and discuss with them how they integrate their scientific discoveries and their Christian faith.
Today's scriptural lesson and sermon was on the Star the Magi studied and followed from Babylon to Bethlehem. (Matt 2:1-12). "In the ancient world scholars believed that there was a direct correspondence between signs in the heavens and events on the earth," Pastor April Heron explained, "that cosmic events had early counterparts, that if there was a new star there had to be a new king. The Magi were the scholars of their day, capable of careful observation and sustained study. They sought to understand the relationship between the heavens and the earth, the spiritual and the material. They welcomed the counsel of others and were open to the messages of their drams. Their wonder at a star led them to the Christ Child."
"The Star the Magi saw and followed could have been a comet," she speculated. "It could have been the retrograde of Jupiter and Saturn." (It could have been a supernova or even a UFO, I would add). Such are the hypotheses of a Theology of Wonder.
Rev. Heron is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree in congregational and community development at Drew University. I am her doctoral advisor, and I am intrigued by her project designed to church members overcome the usual compartmentalization of science and religion and to integrate empirical discovery and ethereal faith. I love how April is using the approach of the biblical Magi as a model for 'faith-seeking- understanding' today.
After attending church this morning, and seeing a beautiful sunset and full moon tonight, I feel a keen openness to the truths of others, and a creative eagerness to experience Christ in a new way during this season of Epiphany.
An epiphany is a 'sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something... ' As April writes in her church newsletter, "it is the 'aha' moment when long-sought understanding or clarification clicks into place is always an exciting one--often hopeful, sometimes a little scary..."
Phyllis Tickle says "epiphany is the name of that moment, that instant, in which a clarity so brilliant as to be only divinely possible drops into human life and takes up permanent residence there.' (The Shaping of a Life).
For me, Epiphany is a season for reflection on what has passed and what is coming next. There is new light to shed on the path ahead, but also familiar light to make sense of our life so far. Twenty years ago I left the pastorate to pursue a new career as an academic. A dozen years ago I left the Church of the Nazarene to become a United Methodist. Four years ago I changed jobs at Drew, from Director of the Doctor of Ministry program to Director of the Shalom Initiative. Six months ago I moved from New Jersey to California to begin a new season of bicoastal work and ministry. What will the Great Year of 2012 hold for me, my family, my work and ministry? Epiphany is a time to look up and wonder, find the star and follow, offer gifts and share the good news. To seek to integrate my faith and reason, in the spirit of Shalom.
May we all experience personal epiphanies during this holy season as we seek the appearing, revealing, and manifestation of the light of Christ among us.