Friday, January 6, 2023

Epiphanies Past and Present

Today is the feast day of the Epiphany, a holiday that celebrates the arrival of the wise men who have been studying the stars when they notice a new one.  They travel, looking for the one whom the star heralds.  They consult a ruler, Herod, and they inadvertently trigger Herod's jealousy, which sets into motion a series of horrible events, the murder of every child under the age of two in Bethlehem.  Jesus isn't there--in a dream, Joseph has been warned to flee with his wife and baby, and he obeys.

I've been looking through my Epiphany posts for the last few years, and I am struck by how much my life has changed.  In 2020, after writing a paragraph where I talked about how I wished I could keep Epiphany,  I wrote, "Instead I will go to my workplace where I will get ready for the term that starts on Wednesday, do some accreditation writing, and then have a New Student Orientation. I'm tired just thinking about it. There's shopping to be done (supplies and food for New Student Orientation) and paperwork--lots and lots of paperwork. Sigh."

Ah, the good old days, before that school was bought by people who changed the academic calendar and severed most of us from our jobs.  The good old days, before the pandemic, when that school still had students and faculty and the hope of increasing enrollment.

This year, I am in a very different place.  I thought about being at seminary and how strange it is that we have no Epiphany worship today.  Then I wondered if the National Cathedral might be having worship this evening.  Did I want to be out and about this evening after going downtown to catch the Vermeer exhibit which leaves after Jan. 8?  

Lo and behold, the Cathedral is offering a noon Epiphany worship with the Eucharist--hurrah!  So I've rearranged my schedule.  I'll walk to the Cathedral for the service, then I'll walk to the Metro stop that's an hour away.  I'll head downtown, and if all goes well (which it should), I'll still have plenty of time for the Vermeer exhibit.

Let me close this post by remembering past Epiphanies that revolved around one of my favorite poems I've ever written.  In 2019, I had been listening to news stories about various immigration crises, and I thought about the 3 Wise Men and if they had come to the U.S. Border.  I made this sketch:

And then I started thinking about a poem with multiple strands:  Epiphany, a current crisis on the border, the crisis between east and west that ultimately led to the taking down of the wall between East and West Germany, a bit of the underground railroad.  Ultimately, this poem arrived, and Sojourners published it in 2020.  It's a perfect fit.

Border Lands

I am the border agent who looks
the other way. I am the one
who leaves bottled water in caches
in the harsh border lands I patrol.

I am the one who doesn’t shoot.
I let the people assemble,
with their flickering candles a shimmering
river in the dark. “Let them pray,”
I tell my comrades. “What harm
can come of that?” We holster
our guns, and open a bottle to share.

I am the superior
officer who loses the paperwork
or makes up the statistics.
I am the one who ignores
your e-mails, who cannot be reached
by text or phone, the one
with a full inbox.

When the wise ones
come, as they do, full of dreams,
babbling about the stars
that lead them or messages
from gods or angels,
I open the gates. I don’t alert
the authorities up the road.
Let the kings and emperors
pay for their own intelligence.

I should scan the horizons,
but I tend the garden
I have planted by the shed
where we keep the extra
barbed wires. I grow a variety
of holy trinities: tomatoes, onions,
peppers, beans, squashes of all sorts.
I plant a hedge of sunflowers,
each bright head a north star.

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