The Martyrs of Epiphany
Bearing witness of Christ with the whole story of one’s life is costly. Especially when your story involves sharing shameful things.
Throughout this year, I have shared with scores of people from my new church of how Jesus healed me from homosexuality. Most have never heard of such a thing; it challenges conservatives who think you cannot be healed, just obedient and miserable, and it shocks liberals who believe nothing about homosexuality needs to be healed. On whatever point on the continuum, they—polite Midwest Catholics–are simply put-off that I would share something so revealing.
They remind me of my fine 86-year-old mother who said to me recently with a hint of exasperation: ‘Andy, must you always share the WHOLE story?’
Yes, I must. I must tell the whole truth in order to be faithful to what He has actually done in me, to manifest how healing the body of Christ can be when truth and grace kiss each other. Besides, how else will others know that Jesus came into the world to set captives free unless we share of the precise nature of our captivity?
A wiseman urges us ‘to be kind to all, because each one carries a huge burden.’ If that is true, and I believe it is, then why do we fill the air with foolish words that obscure our struggle and our hope? More than not, our words hide the healing power of Jesus rather than manifest Him, the Healer.
I agree with Barth when he says: ‘Yes, we certainly talk with each other, we find words all right, but never the right words, never the words that actually do justice to what actually moves us, what actually lives in us; never the words that would really lead us out of our loneliness into community. Our talk is always such an imperfect, wooden, dead talk. Fire will not break out in it, but can only smolder in our words.’
If you want to ignite the hope of Jesus, tell your whole story. No shame, no glory. Crucify yourself by sharing about the ‘mangers’ in your life and Mercy will be manifested, maybe even adored by others due to His faithful love to you.
Then again, you may be crucified. I learned last week that the root word for martyr is ‘maturein’, which simply means to ‘bear witness.’ The word does not have anything to do with death—it relates to Epiphany, to manifesting Jesus to others.
The early church understood how ‘maturein’ related to death. She knew that proclaiming the life He gained for her could cost members their lives. Maybe that’s why the martyrdom of Stephen is celebrated the day after Christmas. Jesus is born then a man is stoned to death for manifesting His life.
Stephen’s Epiphany of Christ is an apt bookend to the 3 kings. Some may fall down and worship Jesus due to our ‘good news’; others may stone us with judgments and accusations. We are called to be faithful, not self-preserving. From this Epiphany onward, let us commit to manifest how His glory has eclipsed our shame. May fire break out in our words. Let’s provoke the world and the worldly church with the incendiary beauty of Jesus Christ.
“If I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak anymore in His Name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)