January 15, 2012

According to the lectionary, Epiphany (The Bible’s “A-ha!” experiences) takes place in the context of the Creation story of Genesis. Why? “Creation” gives us that wide, expansive feeling. The Wise Men, from an eastern religion, looked up at the sky and saw the star.

All people, the world over, in their own language and religion, can experience this. That sky-blue awe and open inclusive feeling was the heartbeat of the early church. We feel this expansive inclusiveness in the hymn of the early church (recorded in the 2nd chapter of Philippians). It pictures “Christ” as that reality before whom all knees bow, on earth, above the earth, below the earth. John’s gospel opens with the idea that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God.” All things where created through the Word, and the Word became flesh. “Word” or “Logos” is “Sophia,” the “Wisdom” with which the universe is being created. “Christ” represents something Cosmic. Matthew Fox, former Dominican silenced by the church and now Episcopal priest, suggests that Christianity needs to expand its focus from the “Historical Jesus” to the “Cosmic Christ.”

Epiphany, one of the oldest celebrations in Christianity, recognizes the Wise Men as the first time Christianity reached out beyond Judaism, the culture and religion of its birth. The Wise Men recognized the significance of Jesus in the context of their own eastern religion; they came and offered homage, and returned to the practice of their own faith.

This may be hard to grasp, theologically, but it is the underlying basis for a church being “inclusive.” Biblical research suggests that early churches were progressive synagogues that welcomed Gentiles into their midst. Pentecost, in Acts, represents people from many countries speaking many languages, and they understood each other. This Sunday, we will explore why churches need to be open to people, regardless of race, sexual preference, social status … and faith orientations. The love that binds our communion is universal, catholic, all-inclusive.