Wednesday January 6th is The Epiphany. The earliest event associated with the Epiphany is Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by his cousin, the Prophet John. John asked the Jewish nation to purify themselves by walking through the Jordan River as Joshua and the nation had done over a thousand years earlier. “Reclaim the land” was John’s agenda. “Be the true people of g-d.” “Repent of your sins and be baptized,” in other words ‘listen to the former prophets (Isaiah, Amos, Joel, etc), do what they say, stop disobeying Torah, stop accommodating the Romans (idolatry, e.g. coinage, contracts, kosher, etc) and embrace your true heritage. [Bible: Gospel of Mark chapter one]
As Jesus walked out of the Jordan on to the promised land a voice from heaven is heard, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (v.11) The story of Jesus begins with his designation as the true Son of the Father, the true obedient Hebrew son.
So begins the ministry of Jesus, announcing a new era, a new kingdom, the salvation of all peoples. From this beginning the new people of g-d are born and charged: “go make disciples,” go make other true sons and daughters of the Most High’s Son. The church is commissioned. The church begins. What is interesting here is the New Testament says the first church was defined by a common meal. Food eaten together in the name of Jesus is serious theology. [Bible: Acts 2:42-47; and see Luke 24:30-31]
This Wednesday our church comes together for a potluck. Here’s how we must celebrate. First, we shall not create a large-scale program, driven by staff and some special serving class (ministry team) to set up, think through all the details, figure out if we have enough food. Instead when you show up you will set up the tables and chairs. You will take charge of serving others. It is a spontaneous “potluck” – reach your hand in the pot and see what luck you draw out! Someone special may think through plates and cups and flatware and napkins, but otherwise it is YOU – the church. This is NOT a consumer event, where you come and “the church” (those other people) are supposed to make you comfortable and happy. That is NOT the church. The church is everyone pulling on a oar in the galley ship – not a few hard working pullers (galley slaves) and then a bunch of tourists top side walking around waiting for their next meal.
This Epiphany Feast (potluck) is a grand experiment for us. There is no program. There is no “success/failure” metric. It is a massive disruption of normal suburban living. Typically we’d all stay home and have our own meal, do our own thing. But we will come together in the name of Jesus and simply be together, enjoying small talk and just living together. I must say, I think that idea is very strange and weird to most of us. We don’t really know how to be together as a church without a program and plan. Let us leave the formulaic structures to Walmart checkout aisles, the airport security lines, library card catalogs and the like. And let us be together for no reason other than just BEING.
The spiritual part of this Epiphany Feast is to watch ourselves (struggle with awkwardness) and understand that our society is flawed because we don’t know how to just be together without a tight plan and purpose. The spiritual work here is to SHOW UP, participate.
Here are the “you don’t get it” reasons why someone will not come: a) I don’t know anybody there b) it sounds boring c) this takes too much work d) I don’t have anything to bring e) how long will it last? f) what if there isn’t enough food?
Answers: a) uh, and you expect to get to know others by NOT coming? Are you waiting for some formal meet-and-greet thing? b) here’s a word you should know: “eutrapelia” (moderation in entertainment) do we really need to be entertained all the time? c) work? It is called serving others – of course it takes work; the labor of love. d) bring two liters of soda. e) until you leave f) Ah! someone forgot to participate – this is the price we all pay for everyone not participating (read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 especially verse 26).
Choose who you want to be: in the fellowship of those who change the world, or an isolated private suburban consumer – very comfortable and unchallenged.