The Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops offers a video reflection on Epiphany and the baptism of Christ which speaks to the Church’s calling to illuminate God’s revelation in Jesus and to live into family as God defines it.
As The United Methodist Church approaches a special called session of its General Conference in February, the bishops also remind us of God’s faithfulness and of the Church’s enduring work. They reflect on the family that God has created and the sacred worth of each person. Looking ahead to the February General Conference, Bishop Minerva Carcaño shares that she has, “no doubt that we will have a God sent epiphany at the General Conference – that God will be with us, because God is ever faithful.”
Bishop Minerva Carcaño: As the three wise men came to the place where the Christ child was, with mother Mary and father Joseph, they saw the light of God’s mercy and grace. They had been led there by this brilliant light, but that light did not begin to compare to the light upon the face of the Christ child.
Bishop Robert Hoshibata: That was the point at which they became aware that God was revealed to the world in this little child. We call it the Epiphany.
Carcaño: In that moment, they knew without a doubt that God was with us, that God was with the world and all of God’s creation. They experienced the fulfillment of God’s divine promise that we would see, and that we would feel, the presence of Emmanuel—God with us.
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky: The Sunday after Epiphany we celebrate the baptism of Jesus and that always comes to my mind when we are thinking about Epiphany.
Bishop Karen Oliveto: We celebrate the time Jesus came to the river Jordan to be baptized. It was a time when the Holy Spirit appeared and the voice of God proclaimed “This is my beloved child, my Son, with whom I am well-pleased.
Stanovsky: I was baptized when I was age three, it’s one of my earliest memories—standing outside the sanctuary with my parents waiting to go inside the Church to be baptized. I was raised in the Church and the Church introduced me to an amazing variety of people and we were always led to understand that when we were baptized, God defined our family.
Oliveto: Every time we gather around the bowl, the font, God is there claiming us as children of God, saying that we are of worth, that there is grace abundant for each of us. And not only that, at this font our family is extended as we see in brothers and sisters and siblings that we didn’t even know we had but with whom Christ has claimed as his own.
Stanovsky: When I was 17 and a member of the District Youth Council, we were planning a youth retreat and I was on the phone with a 16-year-old from a neighboring church. And in the course of the conversation he said to me, “I think I’m gay, and I don’t know if there’s a place for me in the Church.” It never occurred to me that my job was to judge him, or to change him, or to somehow draw a line that said you’re not in the Church. This was a baptized brother in Christ and so I walked a journey with him. I’ve always carried him through all these years with me into the conversations about how open and welcoming is the Church and what is the Church’s attitude towards all people who are LGBTQ, but specifically to baptized brothers and sisters in the family that God has created for us.
The future of Christians is not to decide who’s pure and who’s impure, and to draw lines dividing us, and to find comfortable communities, sub-communities within the Church where we don’t have to be stretched.
Carcaño: As we prepare for our special called General Conference, I want to share with you that I have no doubt that we will have a God-sent epiphany at the General Conference, that God will be with us because God is ever faithful.
Hoshibata: In this time of Epiphany of the revelation of the glory of God to the world through Jesus Christ, this is an invitation for all of us to hold in our hearts the light of Christ.
Oliveto: That no person’s experience of God, no person’s walk with Jesus, no person’s selfhood will be demeaned, diminished or discounted, for truly we are here as the beloved children of God to let the light shine bright in the world and in each one of us.
Bishop Grant Hagiya: Let us be thankful for the great light that shines through the darkness, but equally important, may we be the light for others in need.
Hoshibata: Because no matter what happens at General Conference the important thing is that we emerge as the Church continuing to do what God asks us to do, to be the revelation of God’s love, God’s peace, God’s joy, God’s hope in the world. Amen.