Saturday, January 25, 2014

Everybody Knows That

I don’t know how to write this one.  That’s not all that unusual.  I often have existential angst about writing the Late Night Bible Study - which is why is sometimes come out late at night.  But this one is different.  Most of the time the struggle is figuring out what to say.  How do I approach the topic at hand?  What image can I give that will give folks an insight into what it is that I found in the scripture for the week?  What experience is a window into this truth, this reality, this gospel?  

But this time the road block is a little bit different.  Not uncertainty, not lack of imagination, but fear.  Not fear of repercussions or accusations.  Not fear of rejection or even heresy or causing an uprising or a move to run me out of town with tar and feathers.  Nothing like that.  No, what I sit here this afternoon (and will stand there Sunday morning) afraid of is getting it wrong.

That’s not quite it either.  It is sort of, but not.  It isn’t a theological concept that needs to be delicately parsed.  Not a complicated Greek word usage that has to be examined from a variety of perspectives.  No, I’m not going to get it wrong because of a lack of knowledge.  I wish it were that easy.  That fixable.  Study more, read more, search deeper and you’ll get it right.

No.  Won’t work.  My fear is this, that the presentation of this passage will lead to a shrug of the shoulders, or a nod of the head, or even a “yeah, so?”  I can’t help but think of those commercials, where one person says “15 minutes can save you 15%.”  And the response is “everybody knows that.”  

Everybody knows that.  That’s the danger I face this weekend.  Everybody knows that.  It is old news, been there, done that, sold the T-shirt for mission money.  It is news that has become a cliche, over done, become a greeting card, a bumper sticker.  I’m afraid that already your fingers are itching to go check the weather forecast or your Pintrest pictures or whether anyone has liked your Facebook post.  Well, you’re thinking, get on with it.

OK.  Here goes nothing.  No, scratch that.  Here goes everything.

John 15:8-10  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 

(Crickets chirping)

That’s it?  You got yourself all worked up over three verses?  Well, yeah.  That’s it, basically.  Well, heavens, we thought it was something controversial.  We thought it was going to be a stretch.  We thought, well never mind what we thought.  That’s it?

I got an email from a church leader in the past week or so.  After responding to a request for a biblical passage to read during a waiting time, the response came back: Don’t you ever get tired of talking about love?

Jesus didn’t, apparently.  It seemed his mantra, his go to theme.  He didn’t let too many opportunities pass by without bringing up the subject.  When he was asked for the greatest commandment, he trotted out love.  In at least one version of the story, the questioner responds with “everybody knows that.”  Sort of.  Charged with hanging around with the wrong crowd, Jesus defaults to love.  You can almost hear the Pharisees rolling their eyes.  Well, duh, they could have said, but can’t you do it from a distance?  Approached in the middle of the night by a bureaucrat with a lot on his mind, Jesus responds by answering questions he never thought to ask and explains it all be talking about love.  Love for the world.  Love that saves.  Sitting on a beach eating fish the day after he died, he confronts one his closest followers who had let him down big time, and thrashes him with love.  

Come one, Jesus, don’t you ever get tired of talking about love?  The verses above come from that long goodbye speech in the Gospel of John.  After the meal, that last supper meal, the last food he would eat with this mouth of human flesh, after he had knelt down before each one of them and in spite of their protests, washed the grime of the day’s trouble from their feet.  Then he proceeded to tell them something he wanted them to understand.  Not just hear, but understand.

He had spent three years with them, if our accounting is correct.  He taught and healed and walked and ate and slept  with them.  They were steeped in his thoughts and in his words.  You’d think they would have figured stuff out by then.  You’d think that when Jesus starts this last long speech, that they would have held up their hands and said, “whoa there, Jesus, everybody knows that.”  We got it.  We’ve figured it out.  We can ace that test.  Let’s move on to something new, something radical, something startling.

But they didn’t.  As far as we can tell anyway.  They sat their with their eyes bugging out and their feet dripping from the basin in the corner of the room now filled with their dirty water.  They sat there, heads cocked to one side like golden retrievers trying to make sense out their master’s speaking in these things called words.  Brows furrowed, hands clenched, stomachs lurching, they listened one more time as he told them what everybody knows, but nobody holds onto very long.  

Ah, there’s the truth of it.  This knowledge is like water, life-giving, living water.  Essential, vital, but oh so hard to hold onto.  It runs away, slips out through the cracks between our fingers.  And what we thought we knew, what we thought everybody knows becomes a revelation.  Or forgotten.

Abide in my love.  What?  Me?  Now, here, how long?  Really?  Abide, he says, live in, take up residence in, live your life secure in the knowledge that you are loved.  Really?  Can it be?  No, not me, we think.  Look there, he puts an if in it.  He makes it conditional.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.  See, His love is like everyone else’s love.  Temporary.  Limited.  Only for those who are able to be right, to do right, to not fall off the wagon, to stray off the path.  Only those who are good enough get this kind of love.  That’s what everybody knows, because that is how the world works.  Every time.  Every time.

Look again.  The love isn’t conditional.  The abiding is.  Think about it.  The love comes from Him.  The love is never ending, always new, always available.  Our grip on it isn’t all that good.  Our need for it is constant, our recognition of that need is temporary, flighty, comes and goes.  The love is His, the abiding is ours.  That’s our choice, our willingness to claim it, to claim Him.  Comes and goes.  So, he offers us a way in, he invites us to live as though we did know it.  As though we were aware of His love every moment.  And then, He tells us, then we will have it, and know we have it, and it will change our lives.  Not because we’ve got to be obedient, but because we get to live out of love, we get to act out of love.  And love will direct us into obedience, not as a burden but as a joy.

Everybody knows that.  Except that nobody knows that.  We who know it don’t always know it.  We who know it don’t always live it, don’t always claim it.  We who know it don’t always let it shape our lives so that we can love  like he loves.  We who know need to know.  Even as we are known.  You are known, and loved even so.

You are loved.  Really.  Do you know?  Loved. 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Best Fruit

I couldn't find it.  Maybe it doesn’t exist.  Maybe I’m misquoting it, or have mixed it up in the blender I sometimes call my brain.  Or maybe we haven’t invented the search engine that works with the jumble of remembrances that occupy the grey matter of most normal human beings.  And yes, I am counting myself in that number.  So there.

But the “it” in question is a phrase, a saying, a cliche if you will.  To find the best fruit, you have to go out on a limb.  Or something like that.  At least that is how I heard it.  How I remember it.  I found a quote from Will Rogers: “You've got to go out on a limb sometimes because that's where the fruit is.”  Same thing, mostly.  Kind of.  But it was the best fruit that I was looking for.  We always want the best, whatever it is, that is built into us.  Faster, Higher, Stronger.  That’s the motto of the Olympics.  Actually it is “Citius, Altius, Fortius.”  Latin, you know.  Sounds fancier.  More impressive.

We want the best.  However we are, we want to be better.  Nothing wrong with that.  We need to strive, to push, to become more.  The question, though, is what is that more?  What ought we strive to be?  What ought we reach for?

The best fruit.  That’s my argument for 2014.  A year long answer to the question of who and what we should be striving to be.  Wait.  That’s it, for a whole year?  A self-help program?  A make-over for worship?  Talk about the biggest loser!  Talk about survivor, real housewives of the city of churches!  A reality show each weekend here at Aldersgate.

No, no, no.  Chill out dude.  The theme for worship and discipleship at Aldersgate in 2014 is “You Were Made for This: Living the Fruitful Life.”  This week is the launch and I hope to lay out the whole package in one go.  And then we’ll back up and look at smaller pieces.  Pieces of the pie, we might say, fruit pie.  The whole year is based on these verses from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 5:22-25  By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 

The fruit of Spirit.  Or as some mistranslate - the fruits of the Spirit.  We think it must be a plural.  I mean look at that list.  Nine different words, nine different attributes, or behaviors, or traits.  How could that be anything but plural?  Fruits of the Spirit, it must be.

Except that Paul wrote fruit.  Singular.  Which, when you think about it, actually makes more sense.  He was writing about one life.  Your life.  My life.  Actually he was writing about Christ’s life.  The life we are trying to emulate.  The life we are trying to claim.  To receive.

See, that’s what makes this something more than a reality show, something deeper than a self-help program.  It isn’t what we are making out of the raw material of our lives, but rather that we are being made into by the transformation of the Spirit.  It is not what we are doing, but what Christ is doing in us and through us.  

Looking at this passage we might see a checklist of do’s and don’ts for being a good person.  We might see it as some sort of personal inventory.  If we ran across these verses in a magazine, we might expect there to be some sort of quiz that we could take to find out how we are doing on the fruit scale.  Well, the results might tell us, you struggle with love and joy, but seem to have a good handle on peace.  Your patience index is kind of low, but you score well on kindness and generosity.  You’ve got faithfulness down pat, are ok with gentleness depending on the time of day and amount of sleep you received.  But you might as well just punt on the whole self-control vibe, you aren’t getting that one at all.  And we would nod our heads in wonder, smiling at how a magazine quiz could peg us so well with just a few random sounding questions.

In which case you would have missed the whole point of Paul’s writing.  This isn’t an exercise manual, helping you work on your kindness and patience like on your pecs and glutes.  Instead it is a road map, it is an observational guide to sites you will see, turns you will encounter on your journey with Christ.  

Full disclosure, I had often been in the check list, spiritual exercise camp, chiding parishioners for their sagging generosity and flabby faithfulness like a pastoral drill sergeant.  But last fall when I was on retreat preparing for this year’s worship theme I ran across an old book in a seminary library that I had never encountered before.  Written by Evelyn Underhill, an English Christian writer of both fiction and non-fiction, this little book was not published until after her death in 1941.  It appears to be either collected letters or a lecture series she gave at some time.  Titled  (oddly) Fruits of the Spirit, it presents her take on this famous passage.  What is odd about the title given to the book is that her argument is that there is really only one fruit of the life of the Spirit, but that it manifests itself in this variety of dimensions.  

Other commentators argue that Paul wrote fruit singular because his thesis is that the fruit of the Spirit is love.  But this love (as he also argues in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians) is marked by joy, and by peace and by patience and by kindness and by generosity and by ... well you get the point.  Love is the mark, love is the key by which all of our human encounters are shaped, or even attempted.  Love is the core of the life of Christ and it is the core of the life of the one who seeks to live a Christ-like life.

Underhill suggests that the order of the attributes in Galatians 5:22 and 23 is intentional.  She sees them as a progression.  First, she writes, we find ourselves loved and then able to love in return.  This is our embrace of Christ and the beginning of the transformation.  What Wesley called sanctification or “going on to perfection.”  What is being perfected in us is love.  Not intellect or understanding, not wisdom or social presence, but love.  We are being made into beings who can love like Christ loved.  

Underhill says that Paul was telling us how this happens in our hearts and hands and minds as we give ourselves over to the Spirit.  This love takes root in us and begins to grow (which is why Jesus compared it to a vine - come back next week for more on that!).  As it grows we experience and live first joy and then peace and then all the other attributes in the list.  Which explains why self-control is last.  Not because it is the hardest (ok, not just because it is that hardest), but because true self-control is our only when we have completely given ourselves away to Christ through the Spirit.  

It is a process, in most cases a life long process.  As is the case with any long process, there are times when we want to give up, or when we think we aren’t getting anywhere.  There are times when we think we are cut out for the journey or that even God has given up on us.  Which is exactly why I decided to embark on this journey with the church in 2014.  Not so much to help us do better in our striving to be like Christ, but to help us be better.  To help us recognize these aspects of the life of Christ as they are seen in our own lives and in the life of the community of faith.  To help us pray our way into the life Christ offers us.  To help us live out loud a life we sometimes think is supposed to happened behind closed doors.  

To help us go out on a limb with this faith thing, this life of Christ thing.  To take a risk, a leap of faith, to dive deeper, to pray harder, to climb higher, to believe stronger.  Out on a limb, because that is where the best fruit is. 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Below the Water Line

It is raining again.  Or still.  Or maybe it is just dripping from the trees.  Or running from the mounds of dirty snow on the sides of the road and driveways.  Maybe it is just the squeltchy ground that threatens to suck the shoes right off our feet that makes us think it is a downpour.  

A week ago we are on the brink of the latest snow-pocalypse.  And then it came, dumping over a foot of snow and then dropping the temperature into the negative numbers for days at a time.  We barely get dug out from that and the thermometer registers in the 40's, and we’re swimming.  Or hydroplaning.  Or simply sloshing our way around.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be out of the deep freeze, but the resultant chilly Okefenokee swamp, Northeast Indiana version, is not a whole lot better.

Plus, we get to celebrate Jesus’ baptism this weekend.  First Sunday after the Epiphany, there it is in all its confusing yet soggy glory.  

Matthew 3:13-17  Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.  14 John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"  15 But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.  16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." 

 Why did he do it?  That is the question that has troubled theologians and biblical scholars for centuries.  John was clearly preaching a baptism of repentance from sin.  And Jesus was without sin.  So, why did he need this.  Matthew was troubled by the whole event as well.  So he included a conversation that none of the other gospel writers used.  John, flustered by Jesus’ appearance in the soggy foot line into the river, stammers out, “this isn’t right!  You should be baptizing me,” he shouts, “I’m not worthy of this honor.”  

You notice he doesn’t say, you don’t need what I’ve got, Jesus.  Which is what you would think he would have said.  And, to be fair, maybe that is implied in the statement he did make.  But maybe, John’s trouble was not with what Jesus was doing, but with what he was being asked to do.  He didn’t feel ready, or worthy, to be the one who poured that water.  He didn’t want to be the one who invited the Spirit.  He didn’t want to be the one who said the words.  He knew he wasn’t clean enough, wasn’t pure enough, wasn’t holy - in the best sense of that word: set apart for God’s purposes - wasn’t holy enough.  

But Jesus says, Matthew tells us, that he’d let it slide for now.  Let it be so for now.  What does that mean?  Don’t worry about it John, just go with the flow here.  It’ll make sense later.  If not to you, then to someone, some time.  Maybe.  “For it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”  Wait, what?  To fulfill all righteousness?  That sounds like Jesus wasn’t righteous until his baptism.  That can’t be right, can it?

Well, some scholars interpret that phrase - fulfill all righteousness - to mean to fulfill the prophecy, to fulfill God’s plan.  Jesus was saying to John that we’ve got to go through these motions, we’ve got to perform this ritual in order to follow the script that God has put in place.  We’ve got to play our parts so that people will know that this is the real thing.  That we are getting the show on the road.

And folks were satisfied with that.  After all, it was Jesus, who is going to argue with him?  Well, not me, certainly.  I may, however, want to argue with some of Jesus’ interpreters.  So, give me a sec while I scootch way out on this here limb that I’m sawing on.  Let’s back up a wee bit.  Back to where John the Baptist is defining what he is doing and what the one who is coming after will be doing.  John says, after laying out the Pharisees with a few choice epithets, in verse eleven: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

Now we see why John said he was not worthy, because he had already said he was not worthy, so he was just being consistent.  But it is that “I baptize you with water for repentance” that I want us to dwell on for a moment.  Repentance in our minds usually means something like being sorry for our sins.  We’ve messed up and we feel remorse, and that remorse means we are really serious about it.  So, John says I want you to feel real bad about what you have done, then we’ll know whether you are truly repentant or not.

Except that isn’t what the word meant when John said it.  Repentance or metanoia in the Greek, means turn around.  It means a change, of heart, of direction, of purpose.  It means transformation.  I means a new beginning.

For us, of course that means turning away from sin. From our tendency to put ourselves first, to prejudge the other because of some external factor, to react with anger or violence as a first resort, there is a whole lot we need to turn away from.  No question about that.

But what if the righteousness that Jesus was trying to fulfill was teach us how to focus more on what we are turning toward instead of what we are turning away from?  What if his words to John standing there knee deep in the muddy Jordan were for us as much as for him.  Let it be so for now, the eternal now, the now of our lives, the now of our choices, the now of our possibilities and our hope.  Let it be so for now, an opportunity to be transformed, to start over, to turn around and see where God is sending us.  Or, better yet, how God is claiming us.

Because that is what happened that day, and has happened every baptism since.  The heavens open and the Spirit descends and the voice proclaims that this is my beloved child, and God is pleased with them.  With you.

All that happened at your baptism, that chance to start anew, that grace given and freely shared.  But wait, you say, that happened a long time ago.  Maybe I was a baby in my mother’s arms.  Maybe I was a child who just did it because everyone else did it, or it was time to do it.  Maybe it was later in life, but still, I’ve learned a lot since then, or worse, I didn’t learn anything since then.  I need that new start, that transformation, as much now at then, if not more now.  But my moment has passed?

Not in the least.  Because you remember your baptism.  Not literally, since many of us can’t remember our baptism we were too young.  But we remember that we were baptized, we remember that that chance for renewal, for the fulfilling of all righteousness has been given to us.  And never taken away.  That’s what we remember, that grace falling down on us like a winter rain, like a dove from the heavens, like the voice of acceptance and love.  And because we have received, we can turn around.  We can start over.  We can be transformed by the water and the Word.

It takes both.  John Chrysostom, the fourth century Archbishop and famed preacher of the Word, told us that.  That is the mingling of the water and the Word that makes baptism effective, that makes the ritual a true opportunity for transformation.  And the amazing thing is that there is water everywhere!  

As overflowing as the waters from the melting snow, God’s grace overwhelms us, washes over us, carries us away to new beginnings and new hope.  Remember your baptism as you slosh through your lawns this weekend.  Remember God’s overwhelming love for you.  You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.  Amen.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Did They Know?

Matthew 2:1-12  In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  2 asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."  3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;  4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:  6 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"  7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage."  9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. 

Did they know?  Lying face down on the rough wood of the floor, tears flowing unbidden from their tired eyes, muscles aching from a journey that covered too many miles and too many worlds, hearts pounding from a longing too deep to define.  Did they know?  As they gazed into the red-faced infant, inexpertly wrapped in a threadbare blanket by a mother way too young for this responsibility, this gift, did they know?  Or did they only hope?

In the silence, between the falling to the floor and the rising to open their treasures and offer their gifts, their blood roaring in their ears, did they retrace the steps of this journey?  From the euphoria felt in the sighting of the celestial event, to the hurried decision to go where it called them to go, to the painfully slow plodding steps of the camels across the miles of rock and sand, it seemed to take forever, as though they would never arrive at the place they needed to find.  Maybe it was that frustration that caused them to detour to Jerusalem.  That stop never made much sense, really.  They stopped to ask directions, of all things.  They had gone miles and miles following a star with unerring accuracy, and now, for some “God knows why” reason, they stopped in Jerusalem to ask directions to the birthing unit.  Maybe their assumptions kicked in and they couldn’t imagine such a birth taking place anywhere but in the seat of power.  Maybe their lack of political understanding led them to believe that the current king would be celebrating this birth with as much enthusiasm as they would.  Maybe they rode through the mean streets of the big city and were startled to find no party breaking out, no bunting hanging from the balconies, no sellers of souvenirs lining the streets with royal baby themed items spilling from overloaded carts and wagons.  Nothing worth celebrating seemed to be going on anywhere.  So, they decided to ask.

Their accents and clumsy command of the language drew attention to them as outsiders, but their questions of kings and succession made them dangerous, targets of a suspicious puppet king serving at the pleasure of Rome.  So they found themselves in Herod’s receiving room, where the bathrobed despot was quizzing them about their quest.  Maybe they gave him their answers with the innocence of true believers, maybe they caught a scent of his fear and machinations and held back the details.  When he sent them off to Bethlehem with the smarmy political handshake and empty promises, they stumbled out into the night with their heads spinning and their hearts pounding.  

Maybe it was because of their doubts about Herod and the wisdom of involving the powers that be in the quest for hope and salvation that caused them to look again.  Maybe they lost sight of the star for a time, which caused them to wander off course, and their unsettling encounter with a despot desperate to keep his tenuous grip on power made them look for direction elsewhere.  When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with relief and a little bit of embarrassment. And they climbed up on their camels and high-tailed it out of Jerusalem, barely exchanging a word or even a glance at one another as they rode all the way to the front door of a little nondescript house on the edge of this suburban wasteland.  The house couldn’t be any more different from the one they just left; as plain as the other was opulent, as vulnerable as the other was fortified.  Had they stopped long enough to think about it, their questions would have returned, their doubts would have surfaced.  

But instead they leapt from their weary camels who were clumsily choosing this spot to finally lie down, because if no one else did, the beasts of burden knew they had reached their destination.  The wise men ran up the stoop and barely paused to knock before spilling into the room, startling the young mother who hastily covered herself from feeding an infant who always seemed hungry.  

When they rose from the floor and into the hands of a confused and bewildered girl they thrust gifts more rich than she had ever seen, let alone could hope to own. Then with hearts in their throats, they asked if they could hold him.  With trembling hands they took the offered child and felt his warmth, smelled the warm milky breath and wept more tears they couldn’t explain.  

They staggered out into the night, blinking at the light from the star still showering glory down on them.  No, they though, not on them, on him.  That child.  That singular, yet seemingly ordinary child.  Did they know as they made their way home on yet another unfamiliar road?  But then any road would have been unfamiliar because the whole world had changed with that one encounter, with an act of worship, with an offering of treasures and of self.  Did they speak to one another as they rode, comparing impressions, sharing visions and dreams, asking questions?  Did they dare to ask their questions?  

Of course they did.  They could see it in the child.  He was one for questions.  He would grow to be asked more questions than anyone before or since.  And he would answer them all.  With truth.  No, with Truth.  Truth that was sometimes hard to take, often hard to understand, and always needed to be dwelt upon, pondered, claimed.  Or else it wouldn’t be the Truth that we need.  

What we don’t know about the wise men could fill whole encyclopedias.  Oh, we’ve made up stuff because we don’t like mystery all that much.  We’ve given them history, given them names, given them a story so that we can wrap our minds around them a little more comfortably.  We’ve constructed a scenario that makes sense, that sounds nice, that fits into the narrative we’ve created for ourselves.

But Matthew doesn’t care about all of that.  They are a plot device, a means to an end.  The wise men don’t matter to Matthew.  Except as a way of announcing this birth.  They are a sign pointing to something beyond themselves.  Something that gives them meaning and purpose, something that makes them characters in the story, something that defines them.  They are who they are, and who they have come to be because of what they found.  Who they found.  
Did they know?  Do we?  Or is faith enough?  Is hope enough?  Can we live without knowing, taking the glimpses we have been privileged to receive as sustenance on the on-going journey of faith?  

If you look up the word “epiphany” in the dictionary you find, alongside the religious definitions - a Christian festival celebrated on January 6th commemorating the manifestation of the Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi, or an appearance, especially of a deity - you find something else.  Something that implies a stumbling upon, a glimpse, a revelation, an intuitive perception into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, commonplace occurrence or experience.  Not knowing, as much as grasping.  Receiving.  And maybe that is enough to get us through.  To keep our feet moving.  Maybe.  Happy Epiphany.