Beloved St. John’s community,
Yesterday was the Epiphany, one of the seven great feasts of the church year alongside Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, in which we celebrate the light of Christ that both shines in the darkness and also illuminates how we perceive everything that exists. Yesterday was also a terrible day in the life of our nation, in which our President openly encouraged his followers to march to the Capitol Building and suppress what was truly a fair and free election. But yesterday was also the day when Georgia, the right-leaning heart of the South, elected two Democratic Senators, beyond the narrow margin of 0.5% that would have triggered a recount, after the hard and patient decade-long work of people of color led by Stacey Abrams. Yesterday Trump supporters committed violent insurrection in direct violation of and threat to our democracy, with him watching and only belatedly calling for law and order, without condemning their actions. But also yesterday the people of Georgia, led by people of color, voted in the first black Senator from the South in history, and flipped the Senate.**
What is the light by which we shall see yesterday? What is the whole truth of what is happening in our nation?
My friends, we who follow Jesus’ Way of Love can never see a separation between our religious convictions and our political lives and indeed any other part of our lives. The overwhelming love and healing justice of God is inherently relational, communal, and social. It can never be limited to the individual or to the afterlife. And the love and healing justice of God begins with light—the first thing God created on the very first day; the light of Christ, which we celebrate and uphold on the Epiphany; and the light that is also our calling and birthright as children of God. Light is about illuminating and admitting the truth of what is, knowing that God is able to transform us—to “restore us to sanity” as the Second Step of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it.
When I was practicing law as a corporate securities lawyer years ago, there was a saying in the securities field: “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” It meant that if companies were required to tell the whole truth about their assets and liabilities, consumers and investors would be able to make good choices about which companies to invest in and which to leave alone. But the precondition to making wise decisions is the whole truth. And we can see in our nation what happens when lies are repeated by the President and enabled by far too many in his party, either actively or through their silence. But the whole truth is not only speaking out about the wrongs that occur. It is also the truth being told by patient, courageous, enduring people of color working for ten years to get out the vote in Georgia: the truth that your vote and your voice matters. That as a collective, you do have power to change what is, if every individual will do their small part. That the light does shine in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
The light of Christ that we celebrate in Epiphany is the light that illumines who we are—both the beautiful and the ugly, that which has integrity and that which is distorted. The light is not created by us. It comes from the power of the God who created this breathtaking universe. Today I invite all of us to become especially aware of the lens through which we are perceiving things. Today I invite you to be asking yourselves: what is the whole truth? What is the truth of Jesus’ Way of Love? How does God call us to walk through the world in a way that tells the whole truth and invites the healing justice that is the will of God?
Faithfully, in Christ’s love,
** I give heartfelt thanks to Peter Stebinger for pointing this out to me.