Last Sunday after the Epiphany

In the name of God who shows us the way.  Amen.

I know I tend to talk a lot about musical theatre in my sermons.  Maybe more than would make sense for most anyone else.  But the fact is, one of the reasons it tends to come out to me in my discernment and deliberation each week, is because I’ve learned so much through my involvement with musical theatre.

On a conceptual level, I’ve learned a lot about myself – my preferences, my sense of humor, the specific ways that art can gain my respect, or not.  I’ve learned a lot about problem solving and organization.  And, even in very practical terms, I’ve also just learned facts and terms that I likely might not have encountered, were they not presented to me in the body of musicals.

This week I was thinking of the musical Candide.  I was in a production of it in college, and I still often think of one particular thing I learned in that show.  I’ve not been often exposed to the expressions of Latin intelligencia, but in one of the early songs in Candide, the professor is teaching his pupils about how they live in what he calls “the best of all possible worlds” – a sort of hymn to naiveté…  Through every objection that his students throw out about how some aspect of life could be better, he explains how it is all actually for the best.

This gets to the part where I learned something.  At the end of the song, the professor leads his pupils in singing a chorus of the latin phrase, “quod erat demonstratum”, along with its common abbreviation, “Q.E.D.”  Literally, the phrase means, “what was to be shown.”  It would be placed near the end of an academic article with a succinct statement of the author’s main intention in writing it.  In practice, Q.E.D. sort of means, “As I have just shown you.”  And, if I’m not entirely mistaken, it sometimes comes across as “so there”, or more pointedly, “I told you so”.

For some reason, that little phrase stuck with me.  I’ve only ever seen Q.E.D. in a few academic articles that are “of a certain age.”  But I think of it often.

This week, in the Gospel, we have a sort of Q.E.D. moment.

Today is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany.  The Epiphany, of course, marked the arrival of the “Kings” or “Wise Men” at the cradle of Jesus.  They showed the breadth of his impact – not only in his own community and region, but throughout the whole of creation.  It was an epiphany.

We tend to think of epiphanies as “realizations”.  “I solved a problem – I’ve had an epiphany.”  “I’ve come to understand something more clearly – I’ve had an epiphany.”  But more accurately, at least in the biblical sense – and in the sense that we talk about in the cycle of the church year, the Epiphany isn’t so much a realization as it is a revelation.  It’s where something important is shown – where it’s demonstrated or revealed.

That’s why I’ve sometimes called these weeks between Christmas and Lent, not just the Season after the Epiphany, but the Season of Epiphanies.  The stories we read and study all point us to the continuing revelation that Jesus is God’s beloved.  The callings and the miracles continue to demonstrate that Jesus is Christ – the anointed one of God, the one meant to lead and save us.

Today, on the Last Sunday of this Season of Epiphanies, the Transfiguration is sort of the ultimate “showing”.  It is the Q.E.D. of the revelation of Jesus – the “see, I told you” moment.

Jesus leads some of his most trusted disciples up the mountain – the high mountain, where they could have some privacy.  And when they reach the top Jesus is transfigured before them.  He was one thing – just a normal body – but in their very sight he was shown to be something more.  It was revealed through his physical manifestation.  His clothes became whiter than white – purer than pure – the cleanest and most magnificent things they had ever seen.

And if that wasn’t enough, he was seen to be communing with the giants of the faith, Moses and Elijah.

And if even that wasn’t enough, they heard the booming voice of God, thundering across the mountaintop, stating as explicitly as it could possibly be stated: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.”

Q.E.D.  It has been shown.  Period.  It is the ultimate Epiphany of Jesus’ life on earth.  The capstone of all the epiphanies.

It’s helpful to hear this story here, on the cusp of another Lent.  For the next several weeks, culminating in the drama of Good Friday, we will hear a lot about the humanity of Jesus.  He will be tempted.  He will eat, drink, and sleep.  He will question things.  He will be shown to be frail.

But the epiphany has already been shown.  It has been demonstrated.

Sometimes people hate on Lent.  They sometimes complain that it’s too somber – that it’s glum.  And, I know there are others of us who appreciate it – maybe even enjoy it.  Either way, it’s an undeniable shift from the way we practice this faith through the rest of the year.  Whatever your experience, when we encounter Lent with the memory of what has already been shown, we know it’s not definitive.  When we remember where we’ve been, we’re reminded that the hard times don’t represent the fullness of the story.  They are just a chapter.

This recognition is not naïve like the professor at the beginning of Candide.  It’s not simply ignorance to the reality of suffering.  It’s not trying to make us ignore the hard times and pretend they’re actually good.  But it is a realization that a life that is dedicated to following God through Christ is a dynamic life.  It is a life that we can relate to.  And it is a life modeled after one who promises to be with us through it all – through the joy; through the challenges; through the miracles and through the crowds that are trying to run us out of town.

It has been shown.  And it keeps being shown again and again.

Today is a comma.  A breath.  A moment to empower us for all that’s next.  Amen.