The Illumination of Lazarus—Thank You!
The other evening I was at the church. It was late, and everyone had gone home. The campus was quiet in a way a room where people are sleeping is quiet. There was vitality and stillness woven together, like you might find in a chapel full of monks at prayer. I don’t know why I was standing in front of the fireplace in my office, but I was, and there my soul turned to Lazarus, John 11, as my eyes rested upon the fine art replica from The Saint John’s Bible that now hangs there… thanks to you. As most of you know, this artwork was presented to me as a gift from the vestry at the annual meeting. I was totally surprised, and more than that, caught off guard. It was a moment when I really had no idea what was going on. The impact of the gesture finally sank in, as I stood there alone, with the souls of the saints of Epiphany as my quiet companions, and my eyes resting on Jesus from the perspective of Lazarus.
You’ll have to drop by my office for a visit to truly comprehend what I am about to try to explain. The illumination that complements the text from John 11 is painted from the perspective of Lazarus in the cave. He is dark. The cave is dark. Surrounding him are images—a moth, skulls, strips of linen, angels—and in the distance there is a circle of light. In the light there is a person and it is Jesus. If you meditate upon this illumination (as it is intended to be meditated upon), you will hear the command of Jesus calling, “Lazarus, come out.” That command morphs for me into a more personal invitation from our Lord: “Doyt, come out.”
Here is the promise spoken by Jesus to Mary, the sister of Lazarus, after he arrives in Bethany to find that Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days… “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Then Jesus asks: “Do you believe this?” It is a question to Mary, but I also believe it is the question Lazarus heard as he sat in that dark cave… “Do you believe?”
For us belief is a choice. We can decide to believe, or we can decide to ride the train of skepticism. Either way, we have a place at Epiphany. Skepticism, I might add, in its most authentic incarnation is the harder, lonelier, road. The authentic skeptic has to continuously seek meaning in experiences of fact or mystery, luck or misfortune, grief or joy. Understanding, in its limitations, is the pea under the pile of mattresses. The Christian is freer to be in the moment, letting life wash over him/her. I know very, very few real skeptics. Most who claim the mantle wear it out of convenience more than intellectual engagement and authenticity. To claim no God other than one’s self works very well when it is working very well. When it is not, there is nothing else. Belief is a choice, an ascent, a decision, a proclamation, and a way of life. To believe in God offers one type of life, to not believe in God offers another.
Lazarus alone is the only person who had no choice whether or not to respond to the call, “come out!” What moves me to greater faith through the witness of Lazarus is that he saw Jesus twice… and in both settings Jesus was God. Lazarus dies. His corpse is wrapped in linens, his body laid in a stone tomb, a rock is rolled in front of it, and he, like every person who has ever lived, is laid to rest. We can all agree to the claim of death. What we might not be able to agree to is what happens when he dies. What does his soul experience?
Some would say nothing. Others would say we cannot know. And others, thousands and thousands of others who have come close to death, or even wandered over the line and then returned, would say… “they saw a light, they heard their name called, they approached the light, and were met by loved ones that unbound them from the confines of mortality.” Re-read John 11:41-44 and you will see Lazarus experiences the same thing twice, and in both cases the voice that calls his name is Jesus.
Lazarus had no choice. We do, and I choose to give my choice back to God. I choose to see the light from my dark cave, and move toward it. I choose to hear in the words of Jesus, “Doyt, come out.” And where I find myself is here, with you, at Epiphany. Together we stand at a most interesting station in the place and time of divine creation, and I do not think this is an accident. It is providence. Seattle is one of the most forward thinking, dynamic, industrious cities in the world. The intellectual horsepower of Seattle scarcely has a peer, and here we stand, belief in hand, to be the kingdom of God catalyst that invites this city to consider belief. What we have to offer is the freedom of belief and its traveling partners, wisdom, peace, and joy.
As I stood in my office, my eyes upon Lazarus, and my soul among the saints, these were my thoughts. They were thoughts of thanksgiving inspired by the wonderful gift of word and illumination you gave me. Thank you, and thank God for our journey together in these exciting times.
Thank You for the Genesis Print!
What a surprise to receive such an amazing gift from all of you via the vestry at the Annual Meeting this year. Thank you so very much!
As representatives of the vestry walked up the aisle, I had no idea what was happening. Both Doyt and I received prints of a full page out of The Saint John’s Bible. The framed print proudly hanging in my office is from Genesis, chapter 2. It’s the second creation story, one of my all-time favorites and includes two illuminations. One image, which you may remember is Adam and Eve with the serpent, and the other is the Garden of Eden.
It is such a lovely piece of art and scripture, beautiful to study and gaze upon. Next time you are in Christie House, I invite you to stop by and take a look.
With deep gratitude,
Save the Date for the Women’s Annual Retreat
Friday, May 15–Sunday, May 17, 2015
Our very own Kate Wesch will be the facilitator for our May retreat this year. While the exact topic is still to be decided, we will be at St. Andrews House again for two nights of community, silence, prayer, singing, and laughter. All women are welcome. Last year we ranged in age from just over 30 to more than 80. Registration will begin on April 10.
Release Forms for ALL Children 18 & Younger
Parents and Caregivers,
Please help us start the year off right by filling out a Release Form for each child who attends Epiphany. We know that these forms aren’t a lot of fun to complete, but they are vitally important in the case of an emergency and extremely helpful in making sure that our records are accurate.
- Print it out, complete it, and give it to either Elizabeth Walker or Laura Sargent or return to Christie House Office.
- Complete it on your computer, save it, and email it to Elizabeth at email@example.com or Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pick up a paper copy from the Christie House office or back of Church on Sunday, and return it to the Christie House office.
We would like to have a complete form for every Epiphany child aged 18 and under by February 28.
Many thanks and please let us know if you have questions,
—Elizabeth Walker and Laura Sargent
+TABLE: Back by Popular Demand!
You are invited to join other parishioners for planned potluck meals in homes or other communal locations. These fellowship groups provide an informal setting for members to become acquainted, sharing their background and experience and developing enduring relationships. Each group will be limited to eight (or so) adults (singles, couples and families), meeting approximately once a month. Families with children will be matched with other such families.
An Update from the Building Team
Asbestos abatement continues in the Parish Hall, mostly in the crawlspace beneath the first floor.
The abatement contractor, Performance Abatement Services, assures us that their top concern is the safety of all parties, their workers, and everyone who lives, works, or goes to school in the area. There is signage up announcing the abatement work and identifying the work zone. The work zone is sealed off so that all of the material that is being abated is contained within it. Additionally, in accordance with regulations, the air both inside and outside the work zone are monitored continually. No special procedures are required of anyone except the PAS workers.
We expect that the abatement work will be completed, including inspection and the clearance to resume other work activities, around February 27.
The Next 100 Years Building Team Ed Emerson, Laura Blackmore, Bob Barnes, Jim Marlow, Ben Bradstreet Contact the Building Team at email@example.com
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
February 22, 2015
First Sunday of Lent
1 Peter 3:18–22
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
February 22: Adult Forum – Rude Sermon Q&As
Have you ever left a service wondering what the sermon had been about? Have you ever heard a sermon so eloquently and sublimely given that you just wanted to hear more? Has your mind ever wandered into a particular theological crevasse during a sermon and you got trapped? However you relate to a sermon, now is your chance to ask any question you want (no matter how rude!) and enter into the fullness of the preachers theological reflection by joining us at 10:45 am for Rude Sermon Q&As. We will meet in the Christie House library to talk with the preacher.
February 25: Evening Prayer
Every Wednesday until Holy Week, join us for prayer, hymns, and a lay homily at 5:30 pm in the Chapel. This week, David Holversen is giving the homily.
February 25: Worship in the Style of Taizé
Taizé is a quiet service of meditation, reflection, silence, readings, and music in which all are encourage to participate as the spirit moves them. Join Epiphany Choir in worshiping in this unique way at 7:30 pm in the Church. Free and open to the public.
February 25 & 26: Animate Your Faith Series
There is still time to sign up to join the Animate Your Faith series. It’s $20 to register, and you can pick the morning session or evening session. Click here for more information.
February 26: How to Listen to Classical Music
Jim MacLean will offer some basic information along with time to listen to selected musical pieces. Participants are encouraged to bring their own favorite pieces to discuss with the group on Thursday, February 26, at 6:15 pm in Christie House. If you have missed the rest, it’s okay; feel free to drop in at this last session!
February 27: Noonday Prayer and Contemplation with Doyt
Join The Rev. Doyt Conn in the Chapel for noonday prayer using Hour by Hour, followed by optional silent, unguided meditation. He will be leading this informal prayer time every Lenten Friday until March 27.
Events Down the Road
March 7: Monthly Women’s Mini-Retreat
Join the women of Epiphany at 9 am in the Christie House Library for fellowship, prayer, and a continental breakfast on the first Saturday of the month.
March 7: Lenten Day of Quiet
The Epiphany campus will be dedicated to silence and meditation. Contact Diana Bender for more information.
February 28: KAIROS Palestine – A Call to Action in a Moment of Truth
The Mideast Focus Ministry at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle has joined forces with Kairos USA to offer a dynamic one-day workshop to explore the Palestinian Christian community’s urgent appeal to the global Christian community as expressed in the Kairos Palestine document. The day will include lectures, small group discussion, 7 action-focused workshops and a packet of materials. Buy tickets here.