Epiphany, 6 January 2022
It’s not often that I hear Pause for Thought. But driving in the car yesterday I heard Remona Aly, a Muslim woman, describing the difficulties of orientating herself in the right physical direction for prayer. She described an App on her phone which seemed less than helpful – it was like a ‘confused compass’, she said. The season of Epiphany is a bridge which leads us from Christmas towards the public ministry of Jesus and ultimately in the direction of Lent and Easter. It’s a time when we remember wise pilgrims orientated by a star, carefully searching, and humbly leaving their gifts in awe and devotion as they kneel before the Christ child. Epiphany is also a time when we think of Christ being ‘shown forth’ or ‘manifested’, a time of revelation. It is a bit like that experience of opening the curtains in a room and allowing the light to shine in, dispelling the darkness.
I wonder if any of those images appeal to you. Do you feel like a ‘confused compass’? Are you looking for orientation, a reliable star, a compass guide? Are you searching for wisdom? Do you yearn for new light, new insight, new guidance? I have been struck in recent days by two things which help to orientate me. The first is an insight from the Benedictine tradition. A Benedictine monk belongs to a single monastery, a single community of monks. Wherever he may travel or minister in his life, he always belongs to the same community. It is what is known in the Benedictine tradition as stability. But this physical dimension of place and belonging is matched by a spiritual sense. Wherever we may be, whatever our circumstances, we look for an inner stability, an inner belonging centred in Christ. This is who we are. This is where we belong. This is where we are centred. The second insight flows from the first. A compass has to be held steady and the orientating arrow aligned with the magnetic arrow, with both pointing north, to gain a sense of where you are. Of course, it also helps to have other tools – a good map, for example – but the image is an evocative one for Epiphany. If we do not want our inner compass to be confused, it matters what we orientate ourselves upon and what we are led by.
As we continue to journey out of the pandemic it matters what we are orientated on. Are there things which obscure or confuse our purpose? If so, then perhaps we need to re-think. Our compass needs to be set on its true goal. Whether at a personal, church, circuit or community level, my prayer for all of us in 2022 is that we might become increasingly focused on Christ as our true goal and centre and, in the spirit of Epiphany, that we might make him manifest in all that we are and all that we do.
Peace and light,
Revd Richard Andrew
Chair, Darlington District