Courage to Share
By Rev. Canon Stewart Murray, Incumbent at St. Barnabas, Ottawa
(published in the February 2019 issue of Crosstalk)
The period between the end of Christmas celebrations and the beginning of the holy season of Lent goes by a variety of names in the Church. In the Anglican tradition, the current practice is to number the Sundays only as Epiphany II, III etc. Gone are the days that saw a countdown to Lent/Easter with the wonderful Sundays entitled Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. At seminary one professor called this the “Lenten creep”, when Lenten purple and other Lenten customs crept into the three Sundays before Ash Wednesday, effectively expanding the Lent/Easter cycle from 40 to 70 days. Although by default I am suspicious of any liturgical changes, the keeping of Epiphany as the focus of our thoughts leading up to Lent is a sound one.
Epiphany, to make manifest, is a theme that as individuals and parish communities we all need to reflect on as we have our annual Vestry meetings. As followers of Jesus, we are called to make Him known in how we live and work together in our fast-paced world of the 21st century. The wise men at that first Epiphany went on a long and dangerous journey seeking something greater then themselves, to make sense of what they saw and answers to the questions they were struggling with. They had to leave the safety of home and go into the unknown. How intriguing it would be to know what happened to them when they returned home after encountering the young Jesus and the Holy Family.
I would suggest the time of Epiphany is a gift to allow us to reflect on how we make the Good News of the Gospel known to all who are seeking to make sense of life and the world. As individuals, do we at times shy away when the conversation around the coffee maker at work turns to questions about faith? There are many misconceptions about the Gospel in our society. If we as Christians are afraid to engage in a conversation about our faith, how can people find answers to the questions they are asking? Often, sharing one’s own experience of faith in times of difficulty or of one’s experience of life in the Church can open doors to people seeking God. Similarly, simply offering to pray for someone in difficulty speaks volumes about our faith. To begin to share our faith takes courage and the risk of being rebuffed or even ridiculed by some, but there will be those who will be open to the sharing of one’s faith. Often it is the small things that we say and do that reach and touch people in ways that God can use to open a heart, mind and imagination.
In our parishes, you can be the one who is the first to speak to a visitor or to introduce yourself to that unfamiliar face during coffee time, but be ready to laugh if they turn out to be a long-time member! In our parishes, we can encourage study groups, newcomer meet-and-greets, and a variety of ways of welcoming people in to our story, that we may make the love and hope we have in Christ manifest to the world.