Epiphany is the exhibit of Jesus in the world. The early church was utterly enthralled by Jesus, but did not find it so easy to characterize him. The early followers found that, in his radicality, he outran all of their explanatory categories. But they had to bear witness to him.
For that reason the early church readily appealed to the promissory texts of the Old Testament and found that they anticipated his coming. In the prophetic promises of Isaiah and Jeremiah they found expectations of Jesus. The early church found guidance and comfort in the ancient psalms that celebrated God’s role in lyrical doxology, that acknowledged God as light, and that commanded a neighborly life in the world.
After prophetic promise and psalmic solace and guidance, the church issued its own evangelical conviction that Jesus is the beloved of God, the Word become flesh, the light of the world. They piled up images and phrases, because none was fully adequate to the wonder of his presence. And after all of that imaginative rhetoric, they concluded that it comes down to conduct that reflects his intent. After all of the talk about Jesus, there is the walk. The early church was summoned to a new righteousness, to bold decisions, to vulnerability in the world that attested the new governance of Jesus. Since then, the church has been coming to terms with the reality of Jesus, the one with whom God is well pleased.
Walter Brueggemann, a Sojourners contributing editor, is professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
[ January 2 ]
'Grant Us Peace'
Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18