Dear Apostles Family,
Yesterday I began the morning praising the Lord with joy in the words of Isaiah’s song, words appointed for the Feast of the Epiphany:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land;
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise,
and his glory will appear upon you.
At midday, I celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany with Apostles at the Noon Eucharist Service. I listened to the good Epiphany words from Fr. Laird Bryson and took joy in the sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood.
My joy turned to shock and sadness in the late afternoon as I learned about the assault on the US Capitol. I watched with disbelief the images of rioters wreaking chaos and violence in the halls of Congress. I grieve the lost lives and the many who are wounded and traumatized by yesterday’s violence.
Yesterday’s events represent years of political hostility that have sown deep enmity in our nation. Before we witnessed the assault on the US Capitol, we have witnessed the assault of rancorous words in Washington on social media feeds and—God, help us—in our personal conversations and our inner thoughts.
I was encouraged to hear gracious and inspiring words from both Democrats and Republicans on the floors of Congress after yesterday’s violence. May this charitable discourse increase. Yet we must recognize where the true hope of our country lies—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the light of the Gospel reveals the source that fuels this hatred and enmity in our land: it is Satan, our ancient Enemy. We know that the Prince of Lies is the author of division violence, and death.
It is the task of baptized Christians to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, not only on the day of baptism, but throughout our lives. So let us renounce the evil works of the Enemy we witnessed at the Capitol yesterday. Let us renounce temptations to bitterness, hatred, and enmity in our own hearts and minds.
Epiphanytide guides us to answer the call of discipleship announced by the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ. Now is the time when the Church of Jesus Christ must lead by example because “darkness covers the land and deep gloom enshrouds the peoples” Our command is to “Arise, shine” because the light of God has come through Jesus Christ.
So arise and answer anew the call to discipleship. Shine the virtues of the Kingdom of God in these dark hours.
Discipleship requires loving your neighbor.
Discipleship requires loving your enemy.
If there is a single teaching of our Lord Jesus necessary to heal our land in these days, I believe it is this: love your enemies. Failure to love our enemies—relational, political, or otherwise—has deepened our resentments and damaged personal relationships. Failure to love our enemies has led us to a moment such as this. Satan sows enmity in our hearts to create new enemies and intensify bitterness to existing enemies. Renounce him and all his deceitful works.
Look to our ancestors and martyrs in the faith who loved their enemies and prayed for them even in the hour of their own deaths. Look to Jesus Christ who loved his enemies from his own cross of suffering and death.
It is time that we get serious about loving our enemies. Satan’s work will not be thwarted until we get serious about loving our enemies. The government of heaven and earth rests on the shoulders of our Lord Jesus and he has commanded us—not suggested—that we love our enemies. Obedience to our Lord Jesus requires that we pray for and seek the good of those who irritate, anger, and hurt us.
I was angry to see our government disrespected by rioters yesterday. I believe that is a righteous anger. And yet I knew that Christ still has called me to pray for those who inflicted violence. He has given his Holy Spirit to strengthen us and pray through us. The Epiphany call remains upon me and us in the most difficult places of the heart: “Arise, shine, for the Light has come.”
This morning I returned to Morning Prayer with a heavy heart. Again I prayed Isaiah’s Song, yet with a much more subdued spirit. Then my joy returned when I reached these words of the song:
Violence will no more be heard in your land,
ruin or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation, and all your portals, Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day;
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
Our hope is in the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, who promises that days like yesterday will come to an end. Until our Lord returns, it is our task as his disciples to faithfully and fervently pray: “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Tonight that is exactly what we will do when we gather for a special service of Evening Prayer. I invite you to join us at 5:30pm at Apostles or via our livestream. We will worship the Lord who is born to save all peoples, all nations. We will lament yesterday’s violence, but not only yesterday’s violence. We will lament the rancorous words and enmity within our country. We will pray the Great Litany to ask God’s mercy, forgiveness, and peace upon this nation. We will pray in hope for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
Tonight and hereafter let us heed the Lord’s command to “Arise, shine, for our light has come.” The Christ child born in Bethlehem, revealed to the Magi, is the hope of all nations and our nation. He is “the Light that shines in the darkness” and the darkness has not—and will not—overcome it.