Last updated: January 02. 2014 12:06PM - 958 Views
Flo Johnston Faith in Focus

The Rev. Neal Carter
The Rev. Neal Carter
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If you hear someone say they’ve had an epiphany, you probably understand this person has not come down with an incurable disease, but is really saying that he or she has come to a new and deeper realization about something, often suddenly, or in a moment as we say.

An epiphany or a breakthrough in one’s thinking and understanding is not unique to regular folks or even to those among us who think deep thoughts and make significant discoveries from this phenomena.

A famous epiphany you surely know about was Sir Issac Newton’s realization that a falling apple and the orbiting moon are both pulled by the same force. And the really literary among us may remember that James Joyce used epiphany as a literary device in some of his stuff. (I didn’t read it all, just heard the professors talking about it.)

But what about Epiphany as a part of the church calendar and a significant feast day observed primarily by Greek and Russian Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Christians?

As we have noted, there has been a significant trend during the past several decades for regular or “Mainline” Christian churches to reach back into their pre-Reformation history into the early church and bring forward some of the practices and incorporate them into present day worship.

A classic example comes to mind. A few years ago, an old traditional Baptist church in the Triangle area announced it would observe Lent, the season before Easter, with imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

These days, this is a fairly common practice in most Christian churches, but at that time it was most often used by more liturgical congregations and sparked such comments as “Hey, the Baptists are doing ashes. What’s going on?”

What was going on was Reformation. Change. Old ideas with a new twist. Breaking out of the box.

Laurinburg Presbyterian, a USA Presbyterian Church that likes to say “Reformed, Always Reforming,” will offer an Epiphany service at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. If this were the first time, we might say this is an example of reaching back for something new. But that is not the case.

The service has been a part of this congregations’ playbook for at least 15 years. It was a previous pastor who began the tradition that has been continued by the Rev. Neal Carter, the present minister.

I must interject here, however, that in my lengthy experience as a Presbyterian (parents, grandparents and to this day relatives in Scotland) I have never attended or been aware of a Presbyterian Church that offered this particular worship experience.

Historically, this is a service that celebrates the manifestation of God in the form of human flesh through Jesus Christ, his son. It is also known as “Three Kings Day” and “Twelfth Day,” falling on the 12th day after Christmas. It is linked with the visit of the wise men or Magi to the Christ child.

And, you guessed it, the service will include that ponderous, but popular Christmas carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” all verses.

The service will follow the usual pattern for worship with a Call to Confession, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon, Prayer for Illumination, a Gospel reading from Matthew 2:1-12 and a meditation by the pastor.

The words of dismissal reflect the focus of the meditation:

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. As you follow Christ back into the ordinary paths of your life, you are called: Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place you are. For you are a gift from God to this troubled world. Amen.”

The community is invited to attend this unique service right here in Laurinburg!

WHAT’S HAPPENING: The welcome mat is still out for area congregations to break out of the mold and invite all of us to their special events. No fair excluding those of us who love churches, not just our own, I mean those of us who have experienced variety in worship, who have found that God reveals God’s self to different kinds of folks.

Write me. Call me. Wave me down at Harris Teeter. Email me at flo.johnston314@gmail.com, call me at 910-361-4135, or send me a note at 2200 Elm Ave. Laurinburg, 28352.

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