Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.
Our Times Are in Your Hand - an Epiphany Prayer
?January 7, 2011?
by Gideon Strauss
(My regular series on Wonder, Heartbreak and Hope—reading the psalms to cultivate a robust spirituality for political practice—will resume next week.)
… we turn to you,
God of our life,
God of all our years,
God of our beginning.
Our times are in your hand.
… Give us the power to be receptive,
to take the newness you give,
to move from womb warmth to real life.
These words are part of a prayer for Epiphany from the theologian Walter Brueggemann, collected in the volume Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth. This week much of the Christian church celebrates the feast of Epiphany, connected with the presentation of gifts by the Magi to the Christ child, and the revelation of Christ to the gentile nations.
In 1989 and 1990, while I was in the midst of a community service sentence as a conscientious objector against serving in South Africa’s apartheid military and midway through my graduate studies, my wife Angela and I frequently enjoyed the hospitality of the Knighton-Fitt family. The Knighton-Fitts hosted conversations about the implications of the gospel for all of life over high tea every Sunday at their large and lovely home in the suburbs of Cape Town, in view of beautiful Table Mountain. It was in their home, early in January of 1990, that I first encountered a celebration of Epiphany. This was an informal celebration, and guests were invited to bring a gift of art (a poem to read, a song to sing, a drawing to show, and the like) and wear a star (a pair of star earrings, a star-spangled tie). In the absence of any appropriate clothes or jewelry, I remember fashioning a star, not unlike a sherrif’s badge, from kitchen aluminum foil.
I had no idea on Epiphany in 1990 that this would happen, but days later, on January 12, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and a new era in South African politics began. It was a previously unimaginable, thoroughly surprising new thing that had happened in the life of that nation. Less than two months later my six year community service sentence was abruptly brought to an end after a mere three and a half years, when military conscription was cancelled. The season of Epiphany signals the showing forth of Christ as King to the nations, and in 1990, the power of Christ’s reign had great common grace effect in the country of my birth.
Epiphany is a time celebrating the newness that comes with the surprising discovery of the presence of God in our midst. It is a time in which we recognise, as Brueggemann prays, that Our times—and the times of the nations—are in God’s hand. It is a time in which we can pray, as the Eastern church does before the celebration of the Eucharist, “Kairos tou poiesai to Kyrio”—“It is time for You to act, O LORD” (Psalm 119:126, KJV).
As we celebrate Epiphany, the Coptic Church (using the Julian calendar) celebrates Christmas. This year Coptic Christians gather to worship in some trepidation. A year ago a number of worshippers were gunned down at a Coptic Christmas service, and a week ago many more died as a result of a bombing at a New Year’s Eve service. As we mourn with the survivors who lost dear ones in these attacks, let us also pray—and as we are able, work—for a surprising new time of public justice in Egypt, and in all those places where people die because of conflicts between Muslims and Christians.
—Gideon Strauss is editor of Capital Commentary and CEO of the Center for Public Justice
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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”