Let us remember that we are in the season of Epiphany. In our scriptures, epiphanies are revelations of glory . . . God’s glory. Epiphanies can be public and available to all, or they can be private and only available to individuals. Whatever the case, epiphanies reveal God in a sudden burst of awareness by the individual or group . . . and, so it is with our reading this morning from the Gospel of Matthew.
This morning we get to witness a revelation of glory . . . we get to witness a sudden burst of awareness . . . and, it all happens in a matter of seconds or even minutes. God proclaims that Jesus it the Son, whom God is well pleased. It is the proclamation that Jesus is the One . . . that Jesus is the Messiah . . . the Chosen One. And, the only one who experiences this epiphany is Jesus. This is a private epiphany not shared with anyone else but Jesus . . . not John, who is standing next to Jesus as he baptizes him . . . not the crowd who is witnessing the baptism . . . only Jesus is privy to this revelation. It is a snapshot of holiness.
Speaking of snapshots, the word of the year for 2013 was “selfie”. A “selfie” is picture that an individual takes of him or her self . . . a self-portrait that can be later shared with others. In our day and age, it is a digital record of a moment in one’s life . . . captured to be saved, savored, and shared. The Reverend Nancy Rockwell, in her recent blog, states that this is exactly Jesus is doing in this reading . . . Jesus is taking a “selfie” of himself in a moment of divine acknowledgement, understanding, and awareness . . . a moment that could be saved, savored, shared, and used to remind himself of who he is.
Images and pictures are powerful things. It does not matter whether they are actual images or mental images . . . for all of us, they are powerful. They are powerful in that they capture a moment and all that happens in that moment to help remind us. They are powerful because they can be shared with others to help them understand what words cannot convey. They are powerful because they can be pulled out from the recesses of storage or our minds to help us remember . . . to remember feelings, emotions, and thoughts in times when we need to remember and be bolstered. And, so it was for Jesus.
Jesus had this image . . . this “selfie” . . . in which God confirms him, affirms him, and declares God’s satisfaction in him. It is a moment captured when Jesus understands that he has been given the mantle of the Messiahship . . . that he is the Chosen One . . . Jesus is the beloved . . . the one that God loves. What a powerful image and one that Jesus would turn to time after time when he had doubts . . . when he felt threatened . . . when he felt lost. He could turn to that self-portrait, that “selfie”, and remember that he was the beloved chosen by God.
About a month ago, on the Koinonia Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KOCOCOUN), I shared a post that offered a quick photo montage titled “The Christmas Story Told On a Cell Phone Through the Eyes of Instagram” (http://www.christianpost.com/buzzvine/the-christmas-story-told-on-a-cell-phone-through-the-eyes-of-instagram-comeletusadorehim-111192/cpt) –it is a 90 second clip using hundreds of digital pictures that tell the story of Christmas. Through a whole bunch of “selfies” the wonder and awe of Christmas is shared . . . it is one of the coolest things that I watched during the Christmas season . . . and, it only took 90 seconds—a minute and a half! It was an epiphany in that it revealed the glory of God.
Instagram, for those of you not familiar with this tool, is an application that an individual can download onto a cell phone or tablet device that allows the individual to take snapshots . . . to take “selfies”. These pictures are then placed in a location from which the individual can keep and share these images. It is like a rolling photo gallery. Basically Instagram has moved the “selfie” up to another level as these picture then become a sort of digital history of a person’s life. From this gallery the pictures can be shared on any number of social media networks—Facebook, Twitter, and through the email—instantly. I know, for the most part, that I really appreciate Instagram as it has allowed me to be a part of the lives of my family and friends that I could not be a part of because of time and distance. It allows me to be connected in ways that I never could have been before . . . and, it especially makes me feel good to be able to witness my granddaughter on a regular basis. Instagram is a powerful medium.
It is a powerful medium because it opens up to me moments in my life and the lives of others that have taken place. It is powerful because it becomes a means of remembering . . . of connecting and reconnecting . . . of witnessing. Whenever I need to bolster up my day or feelings, I can turn to Instagram, check out the images stored there, and feel much better. Sometimes that is all that it takes to get me through the day.
So it was for Jesus as he captured in his mind and heart that moment in his life when he was baptized . . . when he caught that declaration and affirmation of being God’s beloved . . . when he knew he was the Chosen One, the Messiah. Such an epiphany would carry him through his ministry to its completion as he would pull out that “selfie” over and over again in his times of need. He believed in what he saw and experienced in that moment.
We are not much different than Jesus. In the journey of faith we have all had our moments of epiphanies . . . moments of being in the revelation of the glory of God . . . moments of great realization of the Holy . . . moments when all those cosmic rollers align themselves in our hearts and we know. And, like Jesus, more often than not, those moments have been more personal and private than they have been communal. For an instant, we pause, click the picture for our own remembrance, and we go on. We go on knowing that we can pull out that “selfie” anywhere along the journey, remember, reaffirm, and strengthen ourselves for moment and for what lies ahead. It is in those moments that we, too, realize that we are also among the beloved . . . that God loves us too.
Whereas the other three gospels put Jesus’ baptism and proclamation out there for all to witness, Matthew makes his a private and personal affair to only be experienced and witnessed by Jesus. As important as it is for the world to know that Jesus is the Chosen One—the Messiah, it is more important that Jesus knew and accepted this knowledge. Important because that is where it all came down to—Jesus as a person and as an individual. It had to begin with him and his faith . . . and, so it is with us too.
It begins with us and radiates out to the world. But, we all know that the world can be a harsh companion in the journey of life and faith. Yet, within each of our hearts we have a gallery of images . . . a gallery of moments in our relationship with God and Jesus that affirm ourselves and our faith . . . that we can pull out and remember . . . we are loved. Loved by God . . . and, with us God is pleased. What more can we ask for? Amen.