A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15)
This comes from the Apostle Paul towards the end of his letter to the Romans, in a section in which he is giving a whole series of instructions to them about how they are to live in Christ. He begins this series by saying, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God; what is good, and acceptable, and perfect.”
Both of these verses have been much in my mind, heart, and spirit over the last few days as I have watched and reflected on what took place at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. I did literally weep more than once as I did so. One image in particular continues to haunt me: the sight of several security officers, some scrambling to barricade the door into the very chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives with furniture, the others drawing their firearms to protect Members of the U.S. Congress from the angry mob outside trying to get in and disrupt or even prevent the certification of the recent election because they disagreed with its outcome.
And I wept, not only at the horror of that sight but also because of what it said about the true state of our Union which is annually described within those very walls. Many of you have described similar feelings and reactions and tears.
For us as Christians, though, the fact that all of this happened on our holy day of Epiphany seems particularly significant. Epiphany is the Christian holiday that signifies the end of the Christmas season, and it commemorates the visit of the Magi to Jesus in Bethlehem. This is why the word “epiphany” more generally means “a sudden and significant discovery or new understanding;” that was what the Magi experienced when they encountered the Christ child, which actually happened some time after his birth.
That is why Epiphany is the next day after the famous “twelve days of Christmas,” so it happens on January 6 every year, and thus only rarely falls on a Sunday. This year, we had already planned to observe Epiphany on January 10, since January 3 is still part of Christmas. With the truly unprecedented and deeply disturbing events of this week taking place on Epiphany, we will be considering on Sunday what Epiphany means for us as we strive to be faithful Christians in this moment of new understanding for many of us, not being conformed to this world but being transformed so that we may discern the will of God.
Yet even though many of us are weeping this week, we are also rejoicing because of what else we will do this Sunday. As you are hopefully already well aware (read more in the “Spotlight” newsletter), the Session has called a Special Congregational Meeting for this Sunday, January 10, at 9 a.m. via Zoom for the purpose of receiving and acting upon the report of the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (“APNC”), which will be presenting a candidate to serve as our Associate Pastor for Formation and Justice.
This is a very important moment and decision in the life of our congregation, and I hope you will make every effort to be there. Please try to log on (or call in) a few minutes early so we can make sure everyone gets in before we start. We will hear a report from the APNC about their process and why they feel this candidate is called by God to this position.
We will then hear from the candidate themselves on their own sense of call as revealed through this process. There will be an opportunity for you to ask questions of either the APNC or the candidate, and then the candidate will be dismissed from the meeting for the APNC to make the motions of calling the candidate and establishing terms of call (salary, etc.). Once the debate is finished and the vote is taken, the candidate will be brought back into the meeting (assuming they are elected) for some final words and a closing prayer.
So, let us continue to come together and support one another as we rejoice, as we weep, as we look for the guidance of God’s light to bring us into the presence of Christ, born to us a Savior, so that we may be transformed and discern the will of God; what is good, and acceptable, and perfect.
Grace and peace,