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pastor corner

Rev. Dr. Devin Strong

Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church

Contrary to what some suspect, Lutheran pastors don’t just wake up on Sunday mornings and decide what Bible passage to preach on. Lutherans—and most Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists—follow a three-year cycle of readings that takes us systematically through Jesus’ ministry as it is presented in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels, called the Revised Common Lectionary. Of course, this is not to denigrate our Baptist and evangelical sisters and brothers who tend not to follow a lectionary. I think that it might well be harder for a pastor to choose her own preaching texts week in and week out!

For us, this schedule of assigned readings gives us the church seasons. Some of these church seasons have seeped into the experience of the larger culture. Most folks know about Christmas and Easter, but you may not know that for the church, Christmas lasts twelve days (hence the famous song), and Easter lasts 50 days. If you have Roman Catholic relatives, you probably know about Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, and if you visit a liturgical church anytime in the summer months, you might well notice the color green on the altar. Green is the color of growth and all the Sundays after Pentecost. Pentecost itself is generally celebrated at the end of May. The Sundays after Pentecost take us all the way back around to the season of Advent and the four Sundays when Christians prepare for Jesus’ birth. It is during the long green season that liturgical churches focus on us believers and our need to grow in discipleship. This is the short course in the liturgical, lectionary-based church calendar, with one thing missing.

That is the season that we Lutherans are in right now, the season of Epiphany. Even long-time churchgoers have a hard time remembering Epiphany. It is the Sundays sandwiched between Christmas and Lent. Epiphany can be longer or shorter depending on when Easter falls. These are the Sundays in church when we hear stories about Jesus calling his first disciples, Jesus doing his first miracles, and telling his first parables. It’s hard to remember this season because “Epiphany” is an old-fashioned word, rarely used anymore.

An epiphany is a surprise, an ah-ha moment, or a sudden lightbulb of recognition going off in your head. For Christians, the season of Epiphany is about being alert to God’s holy surprises in your life and noticing how the Lord of Love is always breaking into the world with grace.

Of course, there are good surprises and not-so-good surprises. A good surprise might be a beautiful sunrise on a cold morning or a warm hug from a friend. What I hope for all of us is that we can learn to pay attention to these ordinary but often unnoticed gifts in life. A bad surprise might be a flat tire on the way to work or an unplanned medical bill. Here, too my hope is that we can all be attentive to the way that God is present through the people that the Lord sends to help us navigate life’s annoyances, and the way God makes a way for us when you and I see no way.

Epiphany is surely the least known of the church seasons, but one of the most important skills for a Jesus-follower is to attune our eyes and ears to God’s presence in every single ordinary and extraordinary situation in life.

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