Epiphany Prayer from the Synod Leader

From our Synod Leader – Epiphany and January 6

The Rev. Sandawna Gaulman Ashley, Transitional Synod Leader, has served the PCUSA on three denominational levels, Mid Council Ministry, national staff in the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and as a local pastor. In her last call, she was the Executive Presbyter for Minnesota Valleys Presbytery; she provided training, consultation, coaching, and resources for presbyteries to support Committees of Ministries (COMs), call seekers and calling organizations. Additionally, her experience includes serving as the denomination’s Associate for Leadership Development with direct responsibility for equipping adaptive pastors. As the Associate for Gender and Racial Justice, Rev. Ashley facilitated ministries and programs at all church levels that helped the PC(U.S.A.) in becoming an inclusive, diverse, and racially just denomination.

Today the country remembers the traumatic events of January 6, 2021. The day which revealed the deep political divisions in our country once again. Regardless of ideologies or political leanings, injustice cannot be masked as righteousness. Unresolved pain often reveals itself in acts of wrongdoing and the oppression of others. Prejudice exists in calling wrong right and right wrong. Intolerance morphs into normalizing violence. Our Christian faith calls us to name society’s ills for what they are—systems that subscribe to the misuse of power and the subjugation of others for individual and corporate prosperity. We are called to the ministry of reconciliation. To be peacemakers valuing peoplehood as a sign of divine love. We can take simple steps to move from philosophies to praxis. We can engage politically by advocating for fair elections and combatting policies that restrict voting laws. We can accompany the least of these by befriending the stranger and working to restore the dignity of the houseless and assisting with food security. These actions help us to be light in a darkened world.

Today is also Epiphany when the Magi made their way to Bethlehem seeking the Christ Child. The Wisemen chose not to return to King Herod, the tyrant. Scripture says being warned in a dream, they returned home another way. The Magi pivoted. They were wise enough to discern a ruse when heard. Every Christian is expected to be changed by their experience of Christ. We cannot truly meet Christ Jesus and remain the same. The old spiritual says we have new hands, new hearts, renewed thinking, and are transformed from the inside out.

The festival of Epiphany also speaks of God’s self-revelation. The Eternal is not hidden from us but is always working to gain our attention. Isaiah 60:4 says, “Lift up your eyes and look around.” In this season of weariness and high anxiety, let us hold fast to God’s promise to accompany us in days of gloom and when the path forward is dense with fog. Through Christ, may we remember that darkness did not overcome him. Christ brought light through love, compassion, and empathy. We are empowered to be the light in our everyday dealings with the simple acts of using good judgment and saying yes to right living. We are the light when we are determined to stand firm in our faith. Our faith is overcoming. We believe that nothing is impossible in Christ Jesus.

Shine brightly this year!

Let Us Pray:
God of light and hope may our gifts and our lives bring great light into the pains and sorrows of the world. Help us as members of the Body of Christ in this region to stay alert to your Word, wherever it may sound forth. Grant us courage to follow the light of any star you may have placed in our personal firmaments. And grant us patience so that, whenever some cherished promise of yours is delayed almost beyond endurance, we may nevertheless remain faithful to you as our loving God who keeps promises. Journey with us this year in times of trouble bless us with stillness. May your love surround our resting and our hurrying and our laughing and our worrying. God of stars and signs, place your light on our paths. Amen

Rev. Dr. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley