Spirited Reflection: Glorious display
Epiphany has many subtle meanings in the original Greek. The one I like best for this year and these lectionary readings is ‘glorious display’, and what a display of glory is offered to us! We need to begin by shedding a little light on the text surrounding Isaiah 60:1. We must emphasize the transformation towards light as we transition away from the previous chapters and focus on chapter 60. Gloom and despair are ‘transfigured’ into light and glory. The opening line is like dawn suddenly bursting through clouds and illuminating everything with radiant light. As on the first day of creation the light and darkness are dramatically divided from one another. The fortunes of those returning from exile will be experienced as entering the light and this light is ‘the glory of God’.
Light can come in surprising ways – fireflies in the night, bioluminescence in plankton, even rocks glow under the right conditions. Light can be found in the most unexpected of places. Think of all the times ‘the glory of God’ is mentioned in the Bible: from the burning bush that was talking to Moses to the pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness; from the firestorm on top of Mt. Sinai to the city of God John describes in Revelation 21:11. The great thing about light is that the darkness cannot overcome it. Candlelight can be seen in the deepest shadow and that is where the light is needed, and that is where we are meant to go… we don’t shy away from the difficult, the drab and dreary, no, our calling in this Epiphany season is to enter the darkness and bring illumination. Epiphany is about manifestation – about bringing light where there was none before.
How do you experience the light? Is it like the Peggy’s Cove light I follow when sailing that keeps me on course? Light is simply another form of energy. Does the light of epiphany fill you with energy? We all have our way of experiencing the light. The star led the magi with its light. To the shepherds it was the glory of the Lord that shone around them. The Rabbis of old gave this a name – ‘Shekhinah’ – the divine presence on earth experienced from the glory of the star of Bethlehem to the glory of the dazzling light on the mount of transfiguration. This is what Epiphany is all about.
So many shining lights have spread across the darkness…they have individual names like Greta Thunberg. Or Stella Bowles’ being recognized for her work to protect Nova Scotia waterways, winning first place in her age group at the International Young Eco-Hero Awards. They are often young, like Vanessa Gray, a young Indigenous activist and water protector from Aamjiwnaang First Nation. Or activist Autumn Peltier from Wiikwemkoong First Nation who addressed hundreds at the United Nations where she urged the global community to respect the sacredness and importance of clean water. Or activist Vanessa Nakate from Uganda who reminds us, “Every voice counts. Every story needs to be heard. Every solution is needed in the fight against climate change.” And they are part of movements that embrace countries and continents and the entire world with their message and their action. The light becomes dazzling as young and old embrace the necessity of seizing this moment. “Kairos” is all about time and epiphany is about time, a time to manifest. ‘Carpe Diem’ urges everyone to make the most of the present time, and to seize the day to embrace a better future. How insignificant is an earth hour or an earth day in the face of exploitation and extraction and economic insatiability? We may feel that the little things we say and do, the small acts of justice and mercy, the ordinary expressions of love and kindness, are insignificant and unimportant. We may feel that our participation in marches, our letter writing to politicians and officials, our protests over the pollution of waterways, our questioning of yet another megaproject to extract more petroleum products add little to ecological justice. We may feel such insignificance until we realize we are an important ray of light which, taken together with countless others, creates a piercing spotlight that illuminates our world and its ecosystem and creates good news which shines brightly.
For heaven’s sake (no, make that earth’s sake) lift up your eyes and see, and what you might see will dazzle you but hopefully not disorient you! Let your light shine before others, so that they may see …”
Written by Kenn Stright. He lives along the shores of Petpeswick Inlet, Nova Scotia, retired from 40 plus years in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Kenn is able to indulge his passions of sailing, running, camping, writing, reading – all of which demand a concern for environmental issues to go along with a life-long passion to support Indigenous people in seeking respect, recognition and resources guaranteed in their treaty rights and their relationship with their treaty partners.