January 9, 2021
Dear members and friends of Epiphany,
Like many of you, we have been shocked and horrified by the events of January 6 in our nation’s capital, the storming of the U.S. Capitol, the attempts to subvert Constitutional processes, and the messages and images of violence and hate that have accompanied those events. We join our prayers with yours for those who were most directly impacted by the acts of terrorism that were perpetrated on Wednesday, especially for the loved ones of those who lost their lives. We join our prayers with all who pray for steady guidance from our leaders, that God will keep our republic sound and strong in the midst of our current turmoil. We condemn the presence of racist ideology and images associated with Wednesday’s events even as we come to terms with unexamined elements of these things within ourselves. We lament the belief espoused by some in Washington that violence and following Jesus can go together.
Your pastors have struggled to keep up with and process the steady stream of information regarding those riots and the political machinations that have brought us to this point in America’s history. It is a lot to sort through and digest. We also realize that our congregation, like many other faith communities, includes people of many different political persuasions and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as people who receive their information and news from many different (and often conflicting) sources of information. Most of all, we are concerned that the emotions and influences that led to Wednesday’s events will produce additional acts of unrest in the coming days, threatening the safety of our country.
In the midst of all of this, we give thanks for a God who meets us in the cross of Jesus. We give thanks for a gracious God who has become flesh to dwell among the brokenness of this world. We offer our prayers to a God whose own Son became a victim of political turmoil and angry crowds. This loving God has bound us together through his grace and promised us the presence of his Spirit as we follow Jesus in the world, no matter our nationality or political affiliation—indeed, over and sometimes against our nationality or political affiliation. We acknowledge our responsibility to seek the face of Christ in our neighbor, especially the neighbor who is marginalized.
This weekend we join in worship to celebrate one of the oldest of Christian festivals, the Baptism of Our Lord. On this day we remember that Jesus’ public ministry begins in the waters of the Jordan River where people were assembling to repent and wait for God’s coming kingdom. As the gospel writers explain, a voice from the heavens was heard declaring Jesus God’s beloved Son, with whom He is well-pleased. This event anchors the entire ministry of Jesus, which was a ministry of healing and self-sacrifice and forgiveness. As we move forward, let us remember our identity and ministry is anchored nowhere but this grace of God’s Son. It is as good a time as any to repent and renounce the ways of this world that draw us from God. Then we can recommit ourselves the vows we make at our own baptisms:
to live among God’s faithful people,
to hear the Word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
Grace and peace be to you during these uncertain times. May the love of God enfold you and the Spirit of Christ give you courage to proclaim him crucified and risen. Please know you can reach out to us for discussion or prayer at any time. We also encourage you to read Bishop Humphey's letter about the January 6 events. Bishop Humphrey is the Bishop of the Virginia Synod. That link is below.
Pastor Phillip Martin
Pastor Joseph Bolick