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Epiphany: A Different Vision

Today, I begin the discipline of a weekly communication to the Garrett-Evangelical community.  I intend to stay in touch with you and I want to hear from you as well!  I will be offering brief reflections on a variety of concerns for our life together, both here at the school and beyond in the church, the academy, and the world.  It is my hope that we will strengthen our voices as public theologians, people of God who have important ethical and faith perspectives to contribute to conversation about the common good and for the wellbeing of all.

January 6 is the 12th day after Christmas, or Epiphany in our Christian liturgical calendar.  It is the day when we remember the visit of the Magi to Mary, Joseph, and the newborn Christ child. God is revealed to the world in human form and we are reminded again that God came to us, as one of us, so that we might better understand this grace-filled love of God.  The “Wise men,” the three kings,” the Magi” experienced a life-changing revelation in the promise of God to embody love that would transform people’s lives and potentially bring peace on earth.

EpiphanyI have long appreciated the gifts of artists for creative imagination and for their call to entertain a different vision, not unlike that of the prophets.  The cognitive dissonance that sometimes results in viewers can provide an opportunity for deepened understanding - that is, if we can stay with the discomfort for more than a few moments.  Western artists have often represented the Epiphany by depicting three (white) men together with mother and child, however, in preparing to write this morning, I came across the following representation by artist Janet McKenzie.  As you can see, it is a depiction of three wise women and Mary, women of varied ethnic/racial identities.

As I followed my own associations, I thought of J. B. Phillips’ little book, Your God is Too Small, and its challenge to resist falling into a nearly unconscious assumption that we already know all about God, when in actuality, God is so much more than we can ever grasp.

I thought of the challenges to Garrett-Evangelical and to the Church (especially the predominately white, US United Methodist Church) to ready our selves for the reality of 2040 when white persons will become a minority in this country.  What will it mean for us to be able to teach effectively and to prepare bold, spiritual leaders for a new multicultural society? 

I thought of wise women and the gift of Eliza Garrett’s vision for an educated clergy in the Midwest; of how God reveals truth in many different places if we have eyes to see and hearts to understand; how we need to be listening to each other, to hear the wisdom from those who are different from us - from other Christians beyond our United Methodist communion and from persons of differing faiths. 

I thought of the importance of prophetic imagination in preparing congregational leaders and others who will engage creative ministries beyond the institutional church; of the distinctive mark of pastoral imagination that is unique to our calling.  Can we be courageous enough to really think outside the smaller, provincial understandings of God to which we have become so loyal?

So, on this very cold day in Chicago, I invite you to consider your own response to this artistic rendering of humanity’s dawning awareness that God has become incarnate, and I leave you with these questions: What is God revealing to you?  What is the Epiphany in your life today? What new vision do you and do we need to receive and to reflect upon for the sake of our mission at Garrett-Evangelical and for the wellbeing of all?   

Let’s keep talking to each other about these things and many more!

Blessings to you,

Lallene Rector

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