by Rev. David Rommereim
I love the liturgical season of Epiphany. The word means shinning, or showing. The Story of Epiphany in Matthew 2:1-12, has to do with stargazers, dreamers, and royalty following light bouncing off the darkness. The story invites our imaginations to be aroused by the Holy Birth, so that fears which crop near us and among us, which then linger in doubt and ambiguity, are given spiritual power called faith and trust.
We all know that the church used to be in close proximity with nature. Our liturgy was rhythmically, musically, and poetically centered in earthen images. We know that the dark days of winter change our perspective on living. Some of us go to work and come home in the dark. That has an impact. We become short witted, grumpy, or sad. Epiphany allows the light of Jesus to collide with that darkness and bring us out of the doldrums.
During these dark says of winter, I am teaching a class for five weeks in Queens. It is for the Diakonia of Metropolitan New York Synod of Lutherans. The class is made up of ten Lutherans with eight unique nationalities. It is a three-hour class called, "The Lutheran Church in the American Context." I take these students through the historic memory of how Lutherans landed in this continent. I take them through the theological patters of migrating a language-bound-faith into a pluralistic landscape. My singular goal is to remind them of the assets we have as Lutherans in our contribution to the American Ethos.
We also work with the Lutheran approach to contemporary American issues plaguing our society. I introduce them to the revisionist historian Howard Zinn. We speak of issues that plague our nations such as immigration, universal health care, economic disparity, poverty, education, and others that come up in the dialogue.
Our first class was excited with the conversation when I reminded them that in January it is incumbent on the Lutheran Church, together with American society, to deal with the issue plaguing our nation since W. E. B. Dubois named it in 1906. Long ago, he said that the United States will be healthier, or perhaps healed, when it deals with the predicament of racism.
When I shared those thoughts with our class they became animated. The door was opened to talk about serious social issues through the lens of our Lutheran heritage and theological gifts. A world of light began bouncing off the darkness.
Can Lutherans talk about race and racism? Absolutely. Do you feel in the dark about race and racism? Absolutely. Yet, this January, out of respect for the greatest preacher of the 20thCentury (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) it is essential that we do. Moreover, as a white man, it is critical that I begin the conversation rather than have the conversation come to me. After all, my opportunity story has a lot to do with my status as a white male.
It is a wonderful time to be a Lutheran. A time like this has never happened. We, Lutherans, have a theological history and a biblical history that may allow G*d to shine the light and bounce it off the darkness so that Jesus will illumine the work force and the faith force of the church.