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Notes from the From the Vicar

From the Vicar January 2024

As I hope each of you knows, the 12 days of Christmas begin on December 25 each year and run through January 5; at least in the liturgical tradition. January 6 is the Day of the Epiphany, the day in our tradition when Jesus made his first appearance to Gentiles in the form of the Wise Men.

The English word “epiphany” is derived from the Greek word meaning “appearance” or “manifestation.” In English, it has a couple of definitions. The one related to the Holy Day is “the manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.” The other is “a moment of sudden realization or insight,” as in, “While I was trying to decide how to handle the situation, I had an epiphany.”

Of course, the Day of the Epiphany is also the feast day of our church here in Crestview.

Epiphanies of the second definition can happen to anyone at any time. Perhaps the opposite of an epiphany is an assumption, when we assume something based on our observations, but often distorted by our unintentional bias.

I read about one such assumption in my post-graduate studies in the University of the South’s Education for Ministry program.

When Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi began work on his master’s degree in religion at Boston University in the early 1950s, he sought a place on campus where he could pray shacharit, the Jewish morning prayers. Rabbi Zalman wanted a place of solitude and quiet. He found that the most suitable place was Marsh Chapel, the university’s campus chapel.

It was ideal for shacharit because students rarely used the chapel in the early morning. Rabbi Zalman had one concern, as the chapel featured a prominent crucifix. This made him uncomfortable, so he found a closet adjacent to the chapel where he would pray.

He realized someone had noticed him praying in the closet, because one morning he found the crucifix missing. On a later morning, Rabbi Zalman saw an African-American man removing the crucifix before the rabbi entered to pray. He continued to occasionally see this same man, who he assumed was a janitor, remove the crucifix early in the morning, then replace it after shacharit.

Rabbi Zalman was touched by this man’s humble effort to make a comfortable place for a Jew to pray, but it became such a daily ritual that he almost forgot about it.

Then, struggling with an academic question, Rabbi Zalman made an appointment to meet with the dean of Marsh Chapel to discuss it. Much to his surprise, when he met the dean, it was the same man whom he had assumed was the janitor who had made a ritual of removing and replacing the crucifix to make him a comfortable place for his morning prayers.

The dean was the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman, a noted theologian, preacher, social activist and author of the seminal book Jesus and the Disinherited. He became a mentor for Rabbi Zalman, who was to become himself a noted theologian, an innovator of interfaith dialogue and one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal movement.

This might be the end of the story, except that for my purposes, this story comes full circle. You see, a free-verse poem by Thurman was the inspiration for my Christmas morning sermon at Epiphany. I wanted to instill the idea that Christmas didn’t end on December 25, but should extend throughout our lives. The poem is called “The Work of Christmas.”

                                                                        When the song of the angels is stilled,

                                                                             when the star in the sky is gone,

                                                                         when the kings and princes are home,

                                                                    when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

                                                                                the work of Christmas begins:

                                                                                            to find the lost,

                                                                                          to heal the broken,

                                                                                          to feed the hungry,

                                                                                       to release the prisoner,

                                                                                         to rebuild the nations,

                                                                                  to bring peace among the people,

                                                                                       to make music in the heart.

                                                                  May the spirit of the season last a lifetime, Father David+

Rev. David  Clothier

The Fifth in the inquirer's series

            22 Aug, 2021

the Fourth in the inquirer's series

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The Third in the  inquirer's series

             25 July, 2021

The First day of our inquirer's class series

                        11 July, 2021

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