Monday, January 17, 2011

Why I Love the Sundays after Epiphany

It's January, and it's been cold, snowy, and gray here in the upper Midwest. But I love this time of year--not because I love cold weather, or even college basketball, or the NFL football playoffs. 

I love it because I love this season of the church calendar. Between the Feast of the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, the church now enters a season of reflection. The Catholic Church calls this a season of "ordinary time," but the liturgically minded Protestants behind the Revised Common Lectionary call this the season of Epiphany. Either way, though, the focus throughout this period is on how God's glory is increasingly revealed through the work and ministry of Christ and the Church. This season is all about the extraordinary Light of God being manifested in the ordinary and mundane.

This theme is encapsulated in this week's communal prayer (or collect, in Anglican language), which is one of my favorites:
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
If Christians would take this prayer seriously and live it out, they would understand their mission in life and find their calling: Everything we do--especially our work in the world--should shine with the radiance of the Light of Christ. But this work must always be rooted in worship, in beholding the glory of the Lord, in experiencing the beauty of God's story. And this work is always to be aimed at making disciples of all nations, inviting others to worship, and teaching them to obey until the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

Since I'm teaching a senior seminar focused on the theme of vocation this spring, I've been reading and thinking a lot about finding callings. It's difficult to figure out what to do with your life. I certainly had a hard time figuring it out, and I know many others who do. It's even harder in this season of winter, when it's easy to get depressed and stay in bed on chilly mornings.

To figure out your calling in life, I want to tell students, you might start by going to church, where you can be illumined.

I love this season because it challenges me to drag myself out of bed, to see the Light, to get to church, to dive into my work, and to renew my sense of calling--right when I need all this, in the depths of of the dark, cold winter.

When I do all these things, I often find that I have caught a glimpse of what I am to do with my life. I have caught a glimpse of my part in the Epiphany mission: the mission of revealing God's glory to all who will receive it.

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