Original post at http://sacredise.com/blog/?p=1700
The season after Epiphany is one that, in my church environment, has not really been given much attention. In the last few years this has been changing, but, there are few people in the seminars I lead who indicate a strong and active engagement with this season. This is a pity, because this season offers the potential for significant encounters with Christ.
The focus through Epiphany, in my view, is on seeing and understanding Jesus more clearly. In Christmastide we celebrated the incarnation. Now we seek to understand who the Incarnate One really is. In Christmastide we sang of God’s glory, now we open ourselves to see how God’s glory is revealed through Christ. But, the key in all of this is not just to speak about glory in some academic way. It is not to gain an intellectual understanding of Jesus. Rather, it is to encounter God’s glory in Christ, and to gain an intimate knowledge of Jesus through relationship, not information.
In a sense this is what we should be seeking every Sunday as we gather for worship. But, in Epiphany, especially, we have an opportunity to encounter Christ through our worship such that we experience God’s glory for ourselves and are changed as a result.
If we take this coming Sunday as an example, the readings speak of the call of Christ. Words like repentance, believing, and God’s Reign are heard. The characters – Jonah, Peter, Andrew, James, and John – are all faced with a choice, a call to change and become something different because of their encounter with Jesus. It would be easy to go through the entire service and explore these ideas and challenges at a distance, without ever actually encountering Christ and his call. I fear that many church services may do just that.
But, if we were to think of our worship gathering as an opportunity to encounter the Incarnate Christ, to experience God’s glory revealed through him, to be confronted with his call to repentance (change) and to believing in (living out the values and priorities of) the Reign of God, then our preparation, and our facilitation of worship would be very different. If we were to come to worship with the expectation that we will encounter and be changed by Jesus, we would enter the sanctuary, and participate in the worship, very differently.
So, here’s the challenge for this week: If you’re planning and leading worship, how can you create an environment in which an encounter with God’s glory in Christ may emerge? And, if you’re just gathering as a congregation member, how can you come with an open heart and mind, and prepare yourself for a true meeting with the Incarnate One?
It’s not our singing, praying, preaching, or sharing that really makes the difference in our lives. All these things are simply practices that are intended to help us experience what really changes us into “little Christs” – an encounter with the Living Christ who calls us.
So, how will you prepare to make Sunday a glorious encounter with Christ? I’d be grateful if you would share your thoughts.
And for further thoughts and resources for worship this week, check out this Lectionary Worship Resources post, and this blog post.