God Within 1-3-2021

The congregation was very proud of their beautiful church, which
had stood proudly on the village common for generations.
But, one night just before Thanksgiving, a spark in the heating
system ignited a fire that destroyed the New England clapboard
structure. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the congregation was
As soon as the fire marshal gave the all-clear, the stunned pastor
and parishioners combed the rubble to salvage the few things they could.
Then, interesting things began to happen.
A nearby church — a congregation that the displaced parish had
little to do with before — offered them the use of their religious
education building for services and meetings for as long as they needed
it. Churches from nearby towns offered hymnals and other supplies;
several churches took up a special collection for the congregation At the first service following the fire, the congregation, who were
used to sitting in their “own” places at a comfortable distance from one
another, found themselves sitting side-by-side on folding chairs. After
the service, teams started to form to deal with insurance issues, organize
temporary arrangements for religious education and parish programs,
and to sketch out first plans to rebuild. The pastor tapped the expertise
of everyone in the parish to help — and everyone readily signed on.
Parishioners who knew one another only by name, who had, until then,
exchanged pleasant but perfunctory hellos on Sunday, were now
working together to rebuild not just their beautiful building but the
community they had taken for granted.
And, in their grief and loss that first Sunday morning in their
temporary quarters, they prayed and sang in a way few had ever
experienced before.
In the new journey they had begun as a church, they had
rediscovered the God within. The Epiphany of the Lord is a story about seeking and finding the
God within, the God in our midst. As the magi undertakes a long and
arduous journey by the light of the mysterious star to find the newborn
king (encountering, among other things, a murderous tyrant along the
way), the suddenly churchless parish rediscovers, in their coming
together to deal with the catastrophe, the Spirit of God in their midst.
The Epiphany challenges us to slow down and check our own bearings
on our life’s journey, to focus on the “star” we should follow to make our
lives all that God has created them to be, to fix our lives on the constant,
eternal values of peace, compassion, mercy, justice, forgiveness that are
the unmistakable signs of God within our hearts and homes


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