We arrive at a parking lot still in the cool of the forest and still surrounded by deep greens, browns, blue and dots of white that have been a part of our day for the last several hours and we walk a path marked by signs directing us to Glacier Point. Just ahead we suddenly see the trailhead opening out to a view of the sky and to our right the top of Half Dome. You might have seen images of Half Dome. It is a huge granite mountain that looks like God took a knife and cut it in half down its center from top to bottom. It is gray as you would expect to see a mountain of granite. Think about the granite you have seen on the side of a building or on a counter top and them envision an entire mountain made of that material with shadows cast by the formations of the rock. There are charcoal grays and light grays and dark grays nearing black. As we continue, the light brightens as we leave the forest and enter the opening of the Glacier Point lookout. The greens and browns that have surrounded us have fallen away and we see the full brightness of this summer day. Our view is filled with the shades of gray of the granite mountains and of Half Dome in particular. The grays are blanketed in large swaths of evergreen forests that look like great green carpets from our view a thousand feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. We have to blink at the brightness of the light as it floods our eyes and, as we look toward Half Dome, we see dark thunderheads rising up behind it. Lightning arcs between the bald top of the mountain and the dark brooding sky. We see sheets of rain falling on Half Dame and then torrents of water steaming off of the rock as the rain washes the scene.
When that vista met my eyes I drew in a breath and held it and my eyes teared up. For a moment I could not breathe. I almost felt like I was floating as I gazed at the beauty God had created. I could feel God surrounding me. I had no thoughts just awe. When a thought finally worked its way into my consciousness it was that surely there has to be a God that has created this.
Epiphany is defined as “a moment of sudden revelation or insight”. While not all of us have had the chance to go to Glacier Point we have, most of us, had an experience of suddenly coming upon a view that has taken our breath away. I remember this one so clearly because it resonated so deeply inside me. The colors in the Fall, a waterfall in the woods, a raging stream in the Spring, a snowfall that coats all the bare branches, a magnificent sunset, all of these can evoke the kind of feeling I had at Glacier Point.
When I hear or read the passage from Isaiah that we just heard I get that feeling. The awe that accompanies the coming of our Lord to us. Theologians call it the enfleshment of God among us. The glory we hear in Isaiah and the psalm is like the presence of God in our world in places like Glacier Point. It takes our breath away and we are compelled to come and see and bring gifts. Our psalm today, Psalm 72, paints a picture of this glorious King’s son who cares for the poor and crushes the oppressor and yet is as gentle as rain upon the field. And the son brings peace and abundance forever. He is recognized by the powers in this world and they honor him. Most impressive though is that he delivers the poor and has pity on the lowly and preserves the needy; those who can offer him the least. All they can offer is themselves and their love and yet it is they who the King’s son preserves. Come and see this wondrous sight.
Come and see. You might remember that as Jesus was calling his disciples the call was to come and see. Paul, in the epistle reading today, is calling the gentiles of Ephesus to come and see “the mystery of Christ” “the boundless riches of Christ” and to carry that vision to “the rulers and authorities” This is Good News. And it is good news for the gentiles because it illuminates their inclusion in the promise that they too are heirs with the Hebrew people and members of same body in Christ Jesus. It should illuminate for us that all of creation is bathed in this light of Christ which we all can come and see.
One other place I find awe and wonder is in the eyepiece of my telescope. I would like you to think about those wise guys from the east who obviously kept an eye on the night sky. Imagine their surprise and delight in finding a new star in the heavens that seemed to portend a royal birth. I could say a lot about Herod and his wicked conniving to try to find and destroy the infant king. I think that speaks for itself and I think we sometimes don’t pay enough attention to awesomeness of God’s enfleshment in that tiny baby.
Any baby is awesome and the birth of a baby is double awesome. I have had the joyful honor of attending the birth of my three children and one of my grandchildren. It never gets old. It evokes feelings of tearful joy and breathless wonder. Now consider, for these three wise men from the east this was a trip of great time and distance to visit and honor a king whose coming called forth the heavens to produce a star. No minor tribute that. They arrive at a tiny wayside village and an out of the way cattle stall to find a poor family with a beautiful new born son being honored by the peasants from the surrounding community. They must have rechecked their calculations several times before they concluded that yes indeed this is the king whose star they have been following. And there, in that simple child was the glory of the universe. How could that not take your breath away. What a grand revelation!
Revelation. Wise men from the east. Shepherds from the fields. A poor family. The King’s son preserving the needy. All are the heirs of God. All these are revelations from our readings today. A revelation was given to me one cold winter evening at an outdoor service in Northampton. A friend who has lived in the streets gave witness, a very difficult witness, to how God entered her life, and then after she spoke she disappeared. I wanted to share the peace with her so I searched high and low but could not find her until the very end of the peace. “You couldn’t find me could
you?” she asked. No I admitted I couldn’t. She told me how her witness had brought back memories that terrified her and she sought comfort “in the back row along the wall where the people who live under the bridge stand.” “They have nothing,” she said, “all they have to give is themselves and their love and they give that freely.” I think we have a Christmas carol that speaks to that, it’s called In The Bleak Midwinter. Pay special attention to the last verse the next time you hear it.
God is present. God is in the world today. God is present in all that I saw on Glacier Point. God is present in every sunset. God is present in every waterfall. God is present in every child. We are surrounded by God every minute of every day. God is in every person we encounter, no matter who they may be. Epiphany should bring to mind the wonder of God’s presence in the world and the awe that attends that presence. Where will you see God today? Amen.
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