Epiphany is the lost season. It is the season that is tucked in between the greatly anticipated season of Christmas and the quiet, inward, reflective season of Lent. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Lord. In Lent, we prepare inwardly to walk with him to Golgotha. In Epiphany, what happens?
Epiphany begins with the Magi following the star to a Bethlehem stable in Mathew’s Gospel. They come bearing gifts to the Christ Child as the Light to the whole world. God’s promise of salvation is no longer restricted to the people of Israel but now offered for all humanity.
In Epiphany, we discover who Jesus is and we listen for his call. This call is not restricted to any particular denomination or creedal formula. His call is to the wider human family with no boundaries included.
Listen to a new way to hear of the boundless kingdom of God through the pen of Dr. Fred Craddock, from Taste of Milk and Honey [July/August 2020]:
THE QUESTION WAS ASKED by a TV reporter and directed to Carl Sandburg, poet, historian, biographer, storyteller. The question was, “Mr. Sandburg, what in your opinion is the ugliest word in the English language?”
I was interested because I grew up with “ugly words.” My mother’s list of ugly words included taking God’s name in vain, cursing, swearing, and using profanity. These words were not to be spoken. Also not to be spoken were words not ugly but close enough to come under the ban: darn, heck, gosh, etc. Also not to be spoken were eleven words that sounded alike but in reality, were different.
For example, “But, Momma, I was saying dam, not damn.” This long list of ugly words came back to mind when the reporter asked, “What is the ugliest word?” Through the years, as I have outgrown my mother’s list (at least, some of them), I have added to my own. For example, “ilk.” It is an old Scottish word meaning “like, or the same.” “The drug dealers and their ilk,” or “the tax collector and their ilk.” Ilk is ugly, real ugly.
But I silenced my mind; Mr. Sandburg was about to speak. I grew more anxious as he grew more deliberate. Finally: “The ugliest word in the English language is exclusive.” He said no more; he did not explain his choice or attempt to justify it. His face said it all — what could be uglier?
I tossed my boyhood list— how childish! I tossed ilk and all its ilk— how useless! On a slip of paper, I wrote “exclusive.” I dared not speak it lest my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth. As I sit here years later I can hardly say the word, it is so ugly. And when I think the word, I feel I should wash my mind out with soap. [May 2012] The opposite of exclusive is “inclusive”, one of the most beautiful words in our vocabulary. May SCF remain inclusive in its heart and practice.