Death, the Exercise of Surrender
A Reflection by The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.
Perhaps you’ve heard me say, “God never puts an end to anything that God loves.”
That said, it seems that in the community of Epiphany and generally in our neighborhood there have been a lot of deaths lately. Some are the expected kinds of death that come from old age, some are the unwelcomed kind that come from illness and disease, and some have been the tragic kind spurn from isolation and the diminishing of spirit. Death is typically not a prefered topic of conversation in most people’s lives, but given that we are moving into Lent, and that this is a season in which we contemplate both our mortality and eternity, I thought we’d wander into the conversation.
There are two points I would like to share from theologian Karl Rahner on death. First, death is the supreme disintegration of a person. It is the singular event where all of our pieces come apart, from cells to relationships. And, second, death is an ongoing part of the human experience. As Rahner puts it “Whenever human beings act freely against the essence of what it means to be human, we experience the darkness which in small measure reflect the singular event of death when all of our pieces come apart.” (New Images of Last Things; p. 60 paraphrased). Either way you look at it, death is a loss, sometimes in small ways, and one singular time in a big way.
The Christian mythology says this loss has a name, sin. And this sin comes from the person Adam, who, by deciding to live in a way contrary to the instruction manual for how to live in the world as God made it, came to know loss, both in small ways and one big way. Adam passed that loss lifestyle down from one generation to the next. Sin is loss. Loss is death.
And then comes Jesus, the great re-framer of cosmic conversation. What Jesus teaches is that loss does not need to be something that is done to us or put upon us. Quite the contrary, loss can become an invitation to surrender. The Christian can embrace surrender, choosing to give over outcome in preference for trust in God. Let me explain by again quoting Rahner: “If we understand death as a reality that is present throughout our lives, we will see that we are called to live lives of self-surrender, trusting that there is someone hidden in the darkness who makes sense out of all reality – and that that someone calls us by name” (New Images of Last Things; p. 61).
And so, we move in our thinking from death as loss to death as self-surrender to God, leading to eternal, full integration with the God. That integration has a name… resurrection. In resurrection, Jesus moves the idea of death from an outcome of sin to a revelation of grace. God loves us. God invites us. God includes us, and the disintegration of ourselves in death offers us the opportunity to completely set our fullness of being into God. That can happen in a million small ways throughout our life, and as it does, or if it does, will determine how we move toward, and then accept, the one big embrace that happens at the end of our mortal lives.
All of this giving away, this self-surrender sits within the matrix of human freedom and human knowledge. We were designed with choice that is beyond the effective will of God precisely because God does love us, and there must be freedom/choice if this love is to be true and authentic. Some questions I wonder: Are we teaching this to our children? Are we teaching them how to live in the world as God made it? Are we teaching them that the little deaths that happen all the time are not failures, but rather opportunities to surrender a bit more to God, and, even more so, the chance to experience a revelation of grace? Do they know resurrection? Do they know they are loved by God? Do they know what this means?
The idea of surrender is made to put in our minds the idea that “giving ourselves away” is the secret for joyful living. Giving ourselves away is very different than actions of social justice and integration with God. When we give ourselves away we are revealing ourselves in our fullest design, that is, as gifts to the world. Death came through the sin of Adam; life came through Jesus Christ. That is a way of living that gloriously continues on when we pass through the grave… for then we know for sure that nothing that God loves comes to an end.
Thank you, Church, for Have a Heart
The party’s over! We started our Sunday evening with profoundly beautiful music at Evensong by Epiphany Choir and Choristers; ate and drank our way through terrific food and plentiful drink; won bottles of wine and raffle items; and listened to cool jazz in the Chapel. Judging from the smiles, laughter, and roaring (literally) conversation, it was the best Have a Heart ever. And, you angel volunteers helping with the cleanup meant that we were on our way home by 9 pm. Unheard of!
Thank you to all our guests. Preliminary numbers show that event receipts are down somewhat from last year’s results. Even if you couldn’t join us Sunday evening, please consider making a gift. And if you were there Sunday evening but couldn’t tear yourself away from the raffle and Cork Pull tables, please consider making an outright gift to one or more of our nonprofit outreach ministry partners. They are all wonderful organizations — just check out the posters that will remain up in the Great Hall for a while. To make an online gift, follow the link below to Epiphany website’s online giving page. And of course, checks are always welcome. Make them payable to “Epiphany Parish” and write “Have a Heart” on the memo line. Thank you!
Click here to make an online gift.
This Week in Lent
The Examen: Contemplative Prayer Practice
February 16 at 5:30 pm in the Chapel and Christie House Library
Followed by a simple meal of soup and bread.
Sunday Services – 7:30 am, 8:45 am, 11 am & 5 pm
February 21 at 5:30 pm in the Chapel
The homilist: Thaddeus Gunn
The Examen: Contemplative Prayer Practice
Fridays in Lent: February 16 through March 23 at 5:30 pm
Followed by a simple meal of soup and bread.
The season of Lent is a season of preparation for the miraculous and life-changing resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our Lenten work then is reason to start again, return to those things that open us to Christ’s working in us, and, when we fall short, to begin again. And again and again. St. Ignatius of Loyola believed that we were called to find God in all things and at all times, so he never included specific times for prayer in the Jesuit Rule of Life. Rather, in his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius urged us to have a personal relationship with Jesus by opening ourselves to the presence of God throughout our day. And, at day’s end, St. Ignatius taught us to pray The Examen, from the Latin word for examination, which leads believers in a contemplative practice of reviewing our day in the presence of Christ. While there are many versions of the Examen today, all are based on five steps:
1. Placing yourself in God’s presence and giving thanks for God’s great love for you
2. Praying for the grace to see how and where God is acting in your life
3. Reviewing your day and whatever specific experiences come to mind
4. Reflecting on your thoughts, actions, or words in these instances
5. Looking forward to tomorrow and how you might want to do things differently
February 21 and 28, March 7, 14, and 21 at 5:30 pm
According to The Book of Common Prayer, “The Holy Eucharist, the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day…and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, as set forth in this book, are the regular services appointed for public worship in this Church.”
On Wednesdays during Lent, we have an Evening Prayer service at 5:30 pm. At these services, we use the daily Eucharistic readings to keep us grounded in the themes of this holy season. We also invite members of the parish to present homilies.
The homilists are:
February 21 – Thaddeus Gunn
February 28 – Kyle Gupton
March 7 – Elizabeth Walker
March 14 – Ryan Klein
March 21 – Diana Bender
Discernment Group – Informational Session
Is God calling you to something new?
February 28 | 6 to 7:30 pm | Garden Room
Lent can be a time when we begin to feel a stirring of something new. Is now the time for change? The Discernment Group beginning in early March will offer you the opportunity to explore how God might be speaking to you as you encounter and respond to change in your heart and/or your life circumstances. Discernment Groups are primarily experiential, quite different from a small group. Over the course of six sessions, we will try out various discernment techniques and approaches, helping you carve out time and space to be intentional about whatever change is happening in your life. Unlike a small group, we won’t share much of our internal experience (unless it’s helpful for you!). We’ll walk a Labyrinth, pray with the Saint John’s Bible, attend a Taizé or Compline service, experience Visio Divina, and engage in a variety of exercises to look at your transition or change from different perspectives.
We will schedule the group at a time and day that works for everyone who wants to join. Most of the time we’ll meet at Epiphany, but we’ll have a few field trips as well! Please plan to attend the discernment class on February 28, which is a prerequisite for this group.
If you are interested in being apart of the Discernment Group, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call 206- 459-9140. Many people are interested already, and I’d like to begin scheduling.
Are you interested in bringing Epiphany out into our Community?
Epiphany’s Lay Eucharistic Visitor ministry brings the service to Park Shore retirement community in Madison Park on Sunday mornings. Many who attend are long-time parishioners of Epiphany who can no longer make it to church but wish to practice their faith in a group setting. If you’re interested in learning more about this wonderful ministry, please join us for our LEV Potluck on March 21st at 6 p.m. in the Christie House Library. No experience required and training is provided – we welcome you!!!! Please contact Amy Griffin (email@example.com) or Vicki Reed (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to join us or learn more about this ministry.
March 4 | 6 pm | Doyt’s House
Here at Epiphany, it is a goal of our community to truly welcome those that God sends us. If you are a newcomer to Epiphany and are interested in meeting other newcomers, ministry leaders, and getting more involved, we hope that you will give us an opportunity to welcome you and get to know you better at our Newcomers’ Reception at Doyt’s house! Please join us after the evening service on Sunday, March 4th at 6pm. Beverages and appetizers will be provided. On-site supervision will be available for children! For more information and to RSVP, please contact Ruth Anne García at
Epiphany Quiet Day for Lent
March 10 | 1 to 6 pm
Spend a few hours allowing your soul to rest in this holy place as we engage in the season of Lent. This is our season to look deeply into our dark corners and consider how we might turn back more fully toward God, preparing ourselves for the more full and rich life available to us in the Kingdom of God. Spend some time in prayer; come sit, read, or meditate in the quiet. Be still and seek God’s will for your life through guided meditation, Visio Divina, prayer exercises, walking the Labyrinth, or playing with art materials.
All are welcome.
Schedule of Events
1pm: Welcome & instructions for the day
1–5:30 pm: Prayer Mandalas, Visio Divina, Labyrinth in the chapel, full use of the Icon Prayer Room, various art media, journaling. Mid-afternoon there will be a guided Meditation with Pieter Drummond.
5:30 pm: Evening Prayer with Taizé chant
Light snacks and beverages will be available throughout the day. The schedule is self directed. Come and go as you wish and enjoy the day.
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SAVE THE DATE!
Epiphany Vacation Bible Camp
July 9-13, 2018 from 1-4 pm
Registration information coming soon!
First Sunday in Lent
1 Peter 3:18-22
Click here to view Prayer List