Blackmon: Let us mark Epiphany, learning from Jan. 6 and the tragedies of our past
Today, Jan. 6, marks the beginning of the Christian liturgical season of Epiphany. Epiphany literally means revelation. It is a time set aside to celebrate the two births of Jesus, represented first by the presentation of Jesus, the Christ-child, to the Magi and then later by John’s baptism of Jesus, launching his public ministry. It is a time to be reminded that even in the midst of chaos and danger, love breaks forth with a power that cannot be quelled by evil acts of Empire or the chaos of community. Epiphany is a reminder that there remains a light in the darkness that compels us forward, and that voices crying out in the wilderness do not cry out in vain. Epiphany is the revelation of hope embodied in One who came to live and serve among us so that we may be one (John 17: 18-21).
How ironic it is that on this same date, Jan. 6, 2021, our democracy was once again challenged by some who profess Christianity and yet fear what the celebration of Epiphany represents: the coming together of diverse cultures and faiths across imposed geographical boundaries. On the grounds of our Capitol some citizens stormed the seat of our government, waving American and confederate flags and “christian” banners conflating God and government, in a futile attempt to thwart the peaceful transition of power for which our democracy is known.
While some watched in horror and disbelief, White vigilantes, spurred on by the inflammatory lies of our former president and the politicians, preachers and public figures who have chosen to follow him, stormed gates, scaled walls, built gallows, defaced federal property and ultimately caused the death of others. They believed they had just cause. Current congressional hearings, along with the 19 states that have passed 34 laws restricting voting rights and impeding equal representation, reveal that they are not alone.
Such efforts will always ultimately fail, not because God is on the side of one or the other, but rather because God is not the government and the government is not God. And there is still a light shining in the darkest of moments guiding us toward the pathway to love. Let us look toward that light and choose rebirth and redemption over and over again.
Today, as we remember the travesty of the rebellion we witnessed last year and mourn anew the lives that were violently taken, let us do so with our hearts turned toward the revelatory light of Epiphany. Let us do so remembering that, despite those restrictive laws in 19 states, 25 states have enacted 54 laws with provisions to expand voting access.
Let us do so, knowing that now is the time to pass federal voting protections, including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Let us do so, knowing that while many supported the insurrection, many more did not. Let us do so, not made bitter but better by the challenge of so many who lost their way to love. Let us do so, remembering the words of poet Lucille Clifton in her poem, “won’t you celebrate with me,” that “everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.” Let us do so, remembering redemption is possible when we live out love.
Let us learn from the tragedies of our past and move toward the light within each of us fueled by the everlasting power of love, knowing that love is the only thing that never dies. It is toward this light that we are called, and it is only in this light we are all warmed.
Rev. Traci D. Blackmon Associate General Minister Justice and Local Church Ministries United Church of Christ
Read an eyewitness account of the insurrection from Sandy Sorensen, director of the UCC Washington, D.C. office, here.
UCC General Minister and President John Dorhauer marks this anniversary of the assault on the Capitol with a wake-up call. Read his commentary here.
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