In my time around youth ministry and youth ministry conferences, I’ve heard a phrase that might sound a little strange to some people. I’ve heard youth directors and sponsors ask youth, “Did you have any God sightings this week?”
It’s an interesting question. Christ our Lord walked this earth 2000 years ago, but 40 days after His Resurrection He ascended to heaven. He promised in the last chapter of Matthew that He would be “with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We don’t walk and talk with Jesus in the flesh every day, but this topic of God sighting got me thinking about how Christ reveals Himself to us today.
The New Year begins quickly with the Epiphany season. Epiphany means manifestation or revealing, and it has to do with how Jesus reveals to His disciples who He is. The Epiphany season includes the Baptism of Jesus, His first miracle turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, His teachings and miracles, and it culminates with His manifestation in glory on the mountain of Transfiguration.
Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples. How does Jesus reveal Himself to you? Do you have God sightings?
In theology, we normally talk about general revelation and special revelation. You might also call them natural knowledge of God and revealed knowledge of God. General revelation or natural knowledge includes when we look at the world around us and its design and we marvel at the order that there is. This knowledge tells us that there is a creator, a divine designer, but it doesn’t tell us much about that creator, nor does it tell us what that creator’s disposition is toward us. What does He think of us?
When we read words like Psalm 19:1 that say, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” or, Romans 1:20 which says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made,” we recognize that we can see that there is a god through the testimony of nature, but in order to glorify or praise God for those things presupposes that we know who that God is. That requires special revelation, revealed knowledge.
When we see the true God in creation and glorify and praise Him, it’s because we know Him through His grace and mercy in Christ and we recognize His revealed word in His natural handiwork.
The Bible even talks in Romans 2 about how our conscience bears witness to God by the law (understanding of right and wrong, morality, guilt, etc.) written on our hearts. But again, the law written on our hearts reveals that there is a higher power, an objective morality, and it shows us that there is a god and you’re not it, but it doesn’t show you what to do with your sins or how to have a relationship with that God.
That only comes in Jesus! That only comes in Him revealing Himself to us in grace. It comes through the epiphany of the Gospel.
We know God when we know His grace revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in His Word and Sacraments. Here we meet a God who has become man, who has suffered and died for our sins, and saved us from death and the devil. Here we find salvation. Here we taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
He reveals His character and His love to us. He pours out His grace upon us-grace upon grace (John 1:16). He calls us and gathers us. He enlightens us and strengthens us. He nourishes and feeds us. He keeps us in the one true faith. He does this through His revealed Word and the visible Word experienced in the tangible Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
Jesus has not abandoned us. He is still with us. You may not see Him like the disciples saw Him, but He reveals Himself nonetheless. He still comes to you and shows you who He is and what He thinks of you and what He does for you. And it is through this knowledge and experience of Him in His Word and Sacrament, that we then begin to see His handiwork in lots of ways in our lives. His love and grace become apparent in various situations. His blessings and gifts are evident to us. We see His work in the work of His people, those who love and shine His light with a helping hand, an encouraging word, a comforting hug. We know Him because He’s revealed Himself to us in Word and Sacrament, and now we see Him at work…or we begin to recognize His work throughout our lives. We have God sightings!
Epiphany is also known as the Season of Light. Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). He lightens the darkness of this world with the truth of who He is and His Good News! His revelation illumines our lives and turns us who were once living in darkness and calls us into His marvelous light. And those enlightened by Him, we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), and we are to let our light shine (Matt. 5:16).
My prayer for each of us in 2023 is that we have many God sightings as we see the work of God made manifest in our lives through the worship service, study of His Word, prayer, fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, and we recognize His goodness and mercy in the various vocations/callings that He has given to us in our daily lives. And my prayer is that we would be that reflection of the light of Christ in this world, that others might have God sightings as they encounter God’s people in love and service, in kindness and grace, in the speaking of truth, in faith active in love to all people. “Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Happy New Year! Let’s see God and show God in 2023!
Pastor Joe Dapelo