Tag Archives: Mike Clemmer

Waiting on That New Thing

by Mike Clemmer, leadership minister

On Sunday, June 30, I preached my last sermon as the pastor of Towamencin Mennonite Church.

I had the privilege of serving at Towamencin for 14 wonderful years, yet, in the past year, my wife and I have sensed the Lord’s call on our lives to transition into a new ministry opportunity. For Towamencin, this means that they will now to need seek out and call a new pastor. For April and me, it is beginning a journey of exploring the unknown lands of the Lancaster area so that we can use our gifts of ministry in a church near our family.

Leaving Towamencin and the Franconia area are certainly big changes for me – but I am also aware that it is a big change for the congregation. We always say, “transition and change are both part of life,” but, in reality, change hits us all hard.

We as Eastern District and Franconia Conferences are also in the midst of change as we move towards a reconciled and merged conference this Fall. Unfortunately, times of change often bring about a period of anxiety and fear.  I have seen some of these emotions at times in my own life, at Towamencin, and within both Conferences.

In the midst of transition, however, I am also amazed at how often I have seen God at work – in my own life, but also growth and renewal at Towamencin – as well as in the Conferences. It is helpful to remember that God is always at work and promises to be with us always. So perhaps, in times of transition, we need to lay aside our anxieties and simply celebrate what God has already done and put more of an effort into anticipating what God is about to do.  

My wife April recently wrote these words in a Lenten devotional regarding change:

On this journey of life, I find myself once again in a place of waiting on God: for direction, for clarity, for peace.  Change is on the horizon, and with that comes excitement, but also some anxiety and fear.  In my humanness, I like to know “the plan,” … to have a picture of what’s ahead … to be in control.  But we don’t always have the luxury of these things. Change isn’t always easy, but I’ve heard it said that growth doesn’t come without change.  During this time of waiting, I see that God is helping me grow by building a deeper trust in Him and a humility in me.  I’m reminded that this isn’t about “me,” but about what God is planning to do. And I’m seeing this as a time of preparation for whatever lies ahead.

The words “waiting” and “preparation” are great words to reflect on as we deal with the emotions that transition and change bring into our life.  Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”  Isn’t it amazing how God knows we often need to hear that reminder twice … Wait for the Lord!

As we continue to pray for our churches and our upcoming reconciliation of Conferences, may we also approach these uncertain times by preparing for what God is about to do by simply waiting on the Lord! Wait … Wait … “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

 

Together, We’re Still Fans

by Mike Clemmer, Leadership Minister

I am a life-long fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.

This has not always been a joyful endeavor, especially during seasons filled with disappointments, injuries, and without Super Bowl victories. That is, until February 4, 2018, when, in a state of disbelief, I watched as we won Super Bowl LII.

The celebration of that victory still feels like it is alive and ongoing within my heart today, even though this season has already ended without a championship. Yet, as a fan, I am already looking forward to all the great possibilities of the 2019 season. No matter what, I believe in this team and I will always cheer them on.

I am also a fan of the Church.

This has not always been a joyful pursuit. There have been disappointments along the way, people have been hurt, and we have not yet seen the kingdom being fully fulfilled with Christ’s return. We often get side-tracked from pursuing the main purpose of the church by our personal preferences as to how the church should look and what its focus should be.

We are called to proclaim and to be a sign of the kingdom of God through our worship, discipleship, and life together.  I long for the possibility of the church being “all together in one accord” (Acts 2) so that the Spirit can fill us anew. Yet despite its shortcomings, as a fan of the church, I always have hope.

This fall, my son and I had an opportunity to attend the Eagles/Texans game at Lincoln Financial Field. It was a close game that the Eagles eventually won. But what I noticed, as I sat amidst 65,000 fans, was that we were “all in one accord.” The fans sitting around me were women and men, young and old, and from every ethnic background possible. We did not always agree on what plays the Eagles should call, or what players should be on the field at a certain time, but we cheered together with passion and energy.

We all were seeking the same result—a win.

So we cheered together at good plays, booed together when we felt that the officials were not treating our team well, and sang the Eagles’ fight song together after each touchdown. We even hugged and high-fived complete strangers, because, at that game, the differences between us did not matter at all. We were simply expressing ourselves as fans of the Eagles.

As I think of the new 2019 “season” of the church, I also have the same feeling of positivity. There are many things happening, both in our individual churches as well as within the Franconia Conference—things I am hopeful and excited about.

Of course, there will be some set-backs and disappointments along the way, but each new year is an opportunity for everything to fall together and perhaps even have the opportunity for us to experience what it means to be “in one accord.”

My prayer is that, as fans of the Church, we can spur one another on as we passionately celebrate, together, what God is going to do.

A Journey Towards Intercultural Engagement

by Mike Clemmer, Leadership Minister

One of the priorities of Franconia Conference as put forth in 2012, is to be more focused in our congregational work on intercultural engagement. Specifically, as stated on our website, it is “networking and cultivating intercultural ministry relationships that work cross-culturally while building further capacity toward mutually-beneficial relationships among ministries and congregations.” I wondered, as I read this statement, “How are we doing at that?”

My mind goes to the early church in Acts. They modeled this same type of intercultural engagement that is envisioned by our Conference leaders. Along the way, the Church in Acts experienced some messiness and struggled in areas of communication, arrogance, and life practice as they worked at developing mutually-beneficial relationships that cared for people of all cultures equally. Indeed, they were aided greatly by an amazing filling of the Holy Spirit, but as they engaged with their call to make disciples of all nations, the result was that the church grew quickly. Is the church in Acts an accurate model as to what our intercultural engagement in Franconia Conference is supposed to look like?

There is no doubt that the make-up of our Conference has changed dramatically in the past several decades. We are becoming more and more urban, more white-collar, less “white” then before and definitely less Swiss-German – at least ethnically speaking. These changes have caused 

some small bumps in the road for Conference, related to communication and the practice of worship amidst the diversity, but it has also led to some rich new understandings of our faith and life together. I believe this diversity is a direct result of the vision put forth from the Conference. I applaud many of our congregations for their intentional approach to connecting with other churches that are completely different, culturally. Indeed, we have worshipped together, ate together, and prayed together – and everyone involved is better for our continued work at intercultural engagement.

My congregation, Towamencin Mennonite Church, recently partnered with Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia for an outdoor baptism service. Centro’s pastors – Fernando and Letty – and I spent a lot of time working out the details of the worship, translation,  transportation needs and the details of a joint meal together. There seemed to be so many hurdles to jump over in the planning process. Yet, we all desired to be together and believed that through this service, both of our congregations would experience God in a powerful way. The commitment of the Centro congregation to this service touched the people of Towamencin greatly, as 130 persons made the trek from South Philly to Telford and joined another 130 persons from Towamencin. The balance in the attendance numbers may have just been a coincidence, but for us as pastors, it was God’s reminder that we both bring value to the table in equal ways and we have a lot to learn from each other.

We baptized 10 persons in the Branch Creek on that beautiful July morning. We had earlier agreed that the words spoken during the baptisms would not be translated as to not disrupt the flow of the event. So, we all watched and cheered each other on in English and in Spanish, as persons declared publicly their commitment to Jesus. Then the Spirit interrupted the service in a powerful way. Just as Pastors Fernando and Letty were preparing to baptize their own daughter, Pastor Fernando abruptly stopped speaking in Spanish and with a tear-soaked face spoke in English and said, “I am sorry for my emotion – but you must understand how great this event is for us: to baptize our own daughter!” Every person from Towamencin connected instantly with the human condition of being a parent and seeing our children make a public faith commitment. At that moment, there were no intercultural differences, no struggles with language – only a coming together fully as two churches, one without any barriers.

Following the baptisms we enjoyed a feast together: chicken BBQ along with the best guacamole ever and salsa. We also agreed together that this will be a yearly happening.

In the weeks after this service, I have been talking to many pastors and congregations who have had similar awesome experiences of intercultural engagement. My question to them is, “Now what?” Do we just go back into our weekly routines as individual churches serving in our local communities, or do we dare to be more regular with our interactions with one another? The Acts church certainly broke down many cultural barriers along the way, yet still displayed many incidents where the church flourished in its own cultural space. In fact, for the early church, intercultural engagement was still always a work in progress.

Perhaps that is how we should look at the vision of our Conference towards intercultural connectedness – as a continual, ongoing work in progress. There is no question that we have much to learn from one another. I think we simply need to recognize the value of being with one another, and then the opportunities to do things together will happen. Most of all, we need to see each other as partners in the same vision with all sides bringing the gifts and abilities to the table equally, on a level playing field. This is the biggest part of the journey of bridging cultures together. It is a necessary one, and at times a messy one. I am thankful that our Conference reminds us all that it is a highly valuable and important journey for our Conference churches to engage in. 

Leadership Ministers Reflect and Refine

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

For generations, one of the primary tasks of Franconia Conference was to provide leadership accompaniment with congregations and credentialed leaders.  The call to serve as a bishop was a serious call to lead, serve and offer wisdom and counsel.  It was a weighty role.  I grew up with a bishop in my home community in Allegheny Conference and for some of us in Franconia, we remember those days, too.   Our bishop still wore a plain coat on Sundays and he preached long sermons.  I still remember being surprised to see him visiting his sister one day while working on the garden to pick green beans and he was wearing a flannel shirt, conversing (not preaching) and laughing.

For almost a decade now, our conference has framed this work as leadership ministers.  We have attempted to find footing alongside congregations to invite, provoke and accompany during rapid cultural changes.  Our conference is now served by a team of ten leadership ministers: men and women from different generations, with different cultural backgrounds and different language capacities to continue to cultivate God’s dream among our 45 congregations.  It’s a key task and incarnation of what we do together.

Our leadership ministers met the end of March, during what we hope will be the last heavy snowstorm, at Mariawald Retreat Center near Reading to review and reimagine our work together.  Some of us weren’t able to get there due to the snow, so we used Zoom to connect with these colleagues.  Some colleagues left early and some stayed later to wait out the storm.  In the meantime, we enjoyed the lovely and hospitable space of Mariawald, hosted by Catholic nuns from Africa who are now in Berks County as part of their vocation of serving God and the church.  The snow was stunningly beautiful even though we may have been ready to move onto spring.  It was in some ways metaphoric of the difficulty and possibility of doing our work in this time and space.

Together we began the task of refining our work.  We will continue to work around the Conference’s approach to ministry and leadership which is formational, missional and intercultural.  We will continue to align our ministry staff around those ongoing priorities.  We are beginning to work together to understand how to include congregations at our farthest distances now with a staff representative based in California to serve our congregations there.  And we’re evaluating best practices to serve congregations that are close by to us too, sometimes just blocks from where we live or less than a mile from the Conference office at Dock Mennonite Academy.

Franconia staff: (front) Aldo Siahaan, (L to R) Mary Nitzsche, Wayne Nitzsche, Noel Santiago, John Stoltzfus, Jeff Wright, Mike Clemmer, Randy Heacock and Steve Kriss.

I am grateful now for a full staff team after over a year of navigating through changes.   We are beginning to learn together, to laugh, to build deeper trust.  We are leaning in toward our individual gifts and callings recognizing our invitation to serve God in the way of Christ’s peace through our historic and growing community.   As a Conference, we are privileged to be resourced well through ongoing generosity and wise stewardship.   I continue to be grateful for the sense of care and mutuality that we have together and the divine invitation to continued transformation by the power of the Spirit in this journey of faith, hope and love together.

A New Chapter in a Classic Story

by Mike Clemmer, Leadership Minister

On April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday), Rockhill Mennonite Church and Ridgeline Community Church joyfully celebrated the resurrection of Jesus together in a nearly-filled-to-capacity Rockhill meetinghouse.  This service was the culmination of a year-long journey of prayer, discussion, and discernment about the possibility of joining together officially as one church, united in God’s mission and service to the community. On the previous Sunday, each church individually affirmed their desire to merge together with nearly unanimous votes from both congregations, confirming the vision of the new entity. The new merger will be led by Gibson Largent, who is the founding pastor of the Souderton church plant named “Ridgeline Community Church.” The joint venture will be meeting at the former Rockhill Mennonite meetinghouse in Telford.

Pastors Larry Moyer and Gibson Largent

This merger process started organically early in 2017 when Rockhill’s pastor, Larry Moyer, informed the Leadership Team of his desire to retire within the coming year. At the same time, persons from Rockhill had started to relate to Pastor Largent through their involvement together in several community-run ministries. At the time, Ridgeline was meeting at the Boys and Girls Club in Souderton. Conversations about some sort of joining together started very slowly. In fact, the idea began as only a simple thought that started to grow into a possibility and then became intriguing to both parties. In the months ahead, differences in structure, theology, vision, and outreach were discussed together and prayed over by each congregation. Although there seemed to be a lot of hurdles to jump over, as well as many difficult decisions that needed to be made along the way, the doors of opportunity towards merging never closed.

In November of 2017, the congregations decided to explore more deeply the possibility of merger by holding 4 joint worship times together. They also engaged in fellowship meals and other opportunities to help to get to know each other better. During this time, both congregations saw a lot of sameness and unity in their core vision and purpose. Indeed, their styles of worship were very similar, they both were passionate about the Gospel and the scriptures, and they both had a desire to connect with the communities of Souderton and Sellersville around them.  The decision was then made to keep moving forward and begin working at all the details necessary in making the possibility of a merger a reality. Legal issues involving the property and the cemetery needed to be dealt with, budgets and general structure had to be talked about, and areas of responsibility and accountability needed to be set up. While all of this was being discussed, both congregations still held meetings that allowed persons to share their concerns and support for the merger. There was deep sense that God’s Spirit was moving through the process. Denominational allegiances and personal preferences were put aside as there was a feeling that God was doing a work of synergy through the coming together of two groups.

Finally, in early March, both churches agreed to hold congregational votes to affirm the joint venture – and this passed with very strong support of everyone involved. This meant that Rockhill Mennonite Church would no longer exist as the entity that it once was,  but instead would be a part of God’s movement in their community through the new, joint effort of Ridgeline Community Church. Their mantra for this new beginning is “better together.”

As this chapter of Rockhill Mennonite Church closes, their past will always be with us and will be remembered. In 1735, several families moved to West Rockhill Township and started a faith community that they called Rockhill Mennonite Church. It was founded as a church that would be located in the community that they resided in and was to be a lighthouse for the community in which they lived. Since that time, Rockhill has served the community and the Franconia Conference well. They have sent out persons into the broader church who have impacted the church around the world. Indeed, their own J. C. Wenger is one of the most well-known historians and theologians in the Mennonite Church to this day. The writings of Magdalene M. Derstine have been treasured for their inspirational content for many generations. And without the passion for history that John D. Souder exuded in forming the local Mennonite Historians, we may have lost a lot of treasures from our past. But as this new chapter of the Rockhill story unfolds, it is clear to see that the church and its merger is simply an extension of the original story. A story of Christian brothers and sisters being faithful to their original calling and purpose – and that is to exist for the community around them for the sake of Christ.  May God bless this new work and use it for God’s glory!

A Synergy of Missional Engagement

by Mike Clemmer, LEADership Minister & Pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church

Today’s Souderton Mennonite Homes (Living Branches) began as Eastern Mennonite Home of the Franconia District in 1917.

This past week, I had the wonderful opportunity of leading a litany of blessing and rededication for the Souderton Mennonite Homes’ Living Branches 100th Anniversary. This service was the final event of a year-long series of activities that gratefully acknowledged the past 100 years, while also casting a vision for serving the community in the years to come. Living Branches is the first and oldest established partnership in ministry with the Franconia Conference. Currently, there are 18 Conference Related Ministries (CRMs) that represent an array of extensions of the reign of God into local communities through nurture, witness, care and discipling. After my experience at this service, I wondered, how are we doing in supporting our CRMs?

At their core, Conference Related Ministries have a unique collaborative relationship with Franconia Conference and represent a fruit of faithfulness in the church’s history and future. CRMs have usually been born out of a deep desire to care for people in need, both in church communities as well as the physical community in which they reside. All the CRMs also have their own stories to tell. This is true of Souderton Mennonite Homes.

In the early 1900s there were no local retirement communities. Leaders in the Mennonite community wanted to find a way to care for the aging population in their congregations. They saw a need and collectively asked, how can we care for our community? Prior to this point, care for the aging happened within families. Although there was a heartfelt sense of love and responsibility for their older members, and care was provided for grandparents and parents by the younger generation –  this often meant that the sick or elderly lived out their days confined to a bed, without easy access to proper care.  At this time in our country, making ends meet was hard enough for many families and some simply could not provide adequate care. Much like in Acts 6, Franconia Conference leaders conferred about this great need and the seeds of the possibility of forming this “ministry” together were planted. On October 7, 1915, the Conference approved the project and appointed 12 trustees – all who understood that they would not be creating an institution, but rather, a “home,” embraced by the church. The Conference then looked to its congregations to help support the project financially, and the goal of $6,000 was surpassed as the trustees collected over $19,000. Shortly thereafter, the “Eastern Mennonite Home of the Franconia District” opened its doors in 1917 and the partnership with Franconia Conference has continued.

Stories like this one could be told by many other Conference Related Ministries. Indeed, the Conference has partnered with a variety of ministries in many areas of need including bringing help to disabled or special needs persons, collaborating in areas of aging and mental health, engaging together in camps and retreat centers, as well as working together in creating educational facilities and church plantings.  By ministering together, our churches are achieving a synergy of missional engagement in our communities. We are truly the church when many members are working together to form one body in Christ – a body that shares resources and invites collaboration with many gifted volunteers – as we together exercise mutual care and love in showing hospitality to all those in need. After all, the church exists to benefit others. How are we doing at supporting our Conference related ministries?

The Gift of Receiving

By Mike Clemmer, LEADership Minister

I was intrigued by something that was said by one of the National Football League (NFL) analysts, about what it would take for this year’s new draft picks to be successful in the NFL. He said, “these star college players need to do something that they never really have had to do before – that is to be willing to receive coaching and critique, because their talent will only take them so far.”  I reflected on this statement and wondered how this might relate to our churches in Franconia Conference. I was taught from as early as I can remember that “it is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As an adult, this makes sense. We as Christians are called to pursue mutual aid and to use our gifts and talents to help those who are in need. As I look around at our Franconia Conference churches, mutual aid and supporting those in need is clearly in the forefront of our missional focus, and rightfully so. Whenever there are financial needs or physical needs, churches and individuals are quick to deliver – often in the biblical mode of “not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing.” We definitely have built up a good track record on giving.

But lately, I have been drawn to perhaps an equally important Christian posture –  that it is just as important to be able to receive. Our track record on being grateful receivers is not as stellar as our giving record. When people ask me if they can help me, my response is almost always, “No, I (or we) have things under control.” I wonder if we are not, at times, blocking others from receiving the blessing of giving to us. Do we find ourselves “above” the possibility of receiving from others?

I recently watched two of our churches experience times of crisis. When they were asked by Conference Leadership and by other churches what they needed to help them the most, instead of acting like they could handle things on their own, their leadership opened their arms to receive a variety of help and kindness that was offered to them. These churches were truly refreshed and encouraged by their ability to receive, and I was amazed at their openness to these blessings.

Receiving can be a lot more than just financial help. This is where it gets tricky. Though probably the greatest thing that both we and the new NFL players can receive is coaching and critique, neither is generally welcomed with open arms. The churches in the New Testament all were a work in progress. Dialogue, teaching, and coaching were needed as part of the growth process, but not all were open to receiving. Are we open to receiving help or coaching in areas of finances, racism, immigration, helping the poor, and a whole lot of other areas of need? I believe that when churches are open to seeing themselves as a work in progress and intentionally place themselves in a position to receive, blessings are poured out in abundance. I would challenge us to continue to look not only at the ways that we can give, but also to the people and places from which we can receive.

Holy Longing for Communion

By Mike Clemmer

Communion photoRecently, I had an intriguing conversation about communion with a friend who worships at a local Catholic parish.  He described his weekly experience of partaking the Holy Eucharist as being “a powerful, mysterious, holy event that brings [him] into the very presence of God – and therefore, something [he] needs to experience every week.”  As I quietly reflected on my own experience at the Lord’s Table, somehow I felt as if I was missing something very important in my faith. In fact, his statement challenged me to think more intentionally about my own thoughts about communion.

Indeed, my theology as it relates to communion differs from my Catholic friend. For him, the Eucharist is a sacrament, the very embodiment of Jesus, and the invitation for him to experience the presence of Christ. For me, it is a sign through which we as believers remember the new covenant established by Jesus through his death and resurrection as well as a recommitment to one another in the church. His belief seems to highlight the individual’s experience while mine emphasizes the community’s witness of togetherness.  After reflecting on these differences, I wonder if there are not several important things for me to learn from my Catholic friend.

One thing to learn is the importance of intentionally putting ourselves in holy places where we can simply be in God’s presence more often. I believe that the Lord’s Table is one of these holy places because as our Confession of Faith states, “When Christians eat the bread and drink the cup, they experience Christ’s presence in their midst.”  God’s Spirit works mightily when we are in God’s presence. Yet, as I surveyed churches in our Franconia and Eastern District Conferences, I found that most practice Communion less than 4 times a year and even those with the most frequency only come to the table once a month. I wonder, how often we should be placing ourselves into the holy place of Communion?

Another thing (which perhaps is more of a reminder than a new learning) is that through Communion, the Lord’s Supper, we practice community at its very core. All are welcome at the table. There is not a place of special prestige or honor, nor is there any room for exclusion.  We all eat the same bread and drink from the same cup. Despite our disagreements and differences, the community still is called together to serve and minister through the strength of the meal shared together. When my friend shared with me his experience with the Holy Eucharist, he reminded me that the practice of community through Communion is one of the greatest witnesses that we have in the world today.

And finally, in many ways, we need to allow for the mystery of God to shape us, move us, and call us to a closer relationship with Jesus. Our faith is not something that can be figured out. In fact, the way God works is rarely the way I think God should work. And so, through God’s mystery, Communion is very personal and individual.  One of the pastors that I spoke to about Communion described the mystery of experiencing God’s presence when he shared Communion at the bedside of a person at life’s end. He could not put words on what happened in that holy place, but God’s presence had a profound effect on him and all that were in the room. Thanks to my friend’s sharing, I find myself in a place of holy longing to experience God’s mystery in my life in a new way – and I can’t wait until the next time that I can share Communion with my other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Mike Clemmer is Lead Pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church, and a LEADership Minister for Franconia Conference.

Tuning Fork

by Mike Clemmer

tuning fork - 4-28-16As a young boy, I enjoyed going to my grandparent’s house to explore the many knick-knacks that were displayed around their home. Of all the fun items to see, the one that intrigued me more than any other was my great grandfather’s tuning fork. I would spend countless hours repeatedly striking it against the heel of my shoe and then holding it to my ear to listen to the sound of the vibrations – a concert A – over and over again. I would then attempt to match the pitch that I heard in my ear with my own voice while imagining myself as a chorister leading a hymn. The inscription pressed into the metal on one of the tuning fork’s tines stated “A = 440 vibrations guaranteed,” meaning that the sound in my ear would always be the same – guaranteed! But although I always heard the same pitch in my ear, somehow my ability to match that pitch with the sound of my voice was less than a perfect match.

Years later and still having the tuning fork in my possession, listening for the perfect pitch has become both a labor of love as well as a conduit for lessons of faith. As an Anabaptist   follower of Jesus, I hold Jesus at the center of my faith – he is the “perfect pitch” on which all of my life is centered. Indeed, as Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Yet, just as I often struggle to match the musical pitch perfectly with my tuning fork, so I too often fail to match the way that Jesus set forth as the center of my faith. Maybe I am simply not listening close enough? It also gets tricky at times – both in life and music, that is – because all songs do not start in the key of A. Some are written in a minor key and some in a major key. Some songs even use the same words but have a different melody. In those cases, I need to begin with the perfect pitch and work at deriving the correct starting note from that center place. This takes work and practice. In fact, I find that often times, I need to go back and strike the tuning fork again and again just to hear the Concert A clear enough to find the correct pitch needed to start the song that I am leading or living. In both music and life, I believe I would be further ahead if I would take time to listen to the guaranteed vibrations of Jesus and allow his perfect pitch to resonate within my heart, mind, and soul.

Mike Clemmer is Lead Pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church, and a LEADership Minister for Franconia Conference.

Epiphanies: A Call to Worship

By Michael Clemmer

Many of our churches have just finished their celebration of Epiphany – a day that seems to have taken a back seat to our more culturally-relevant Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Epiphany is literally defined as a “Christian festival held on January 6 in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus Christ.” Yet, as I reflected on the story of how the Magi saw something new in the sky and were compelled to leave behind all of their responsibilities and travel to see this new king, I couldn’t help but wonder if epiphanies have the same effect on people today. Is it even possible that we, who live in our practical or intellectual worlds of thought, would even be open to see or understand something in a new way through God’s divine enlightening?

threewisemenPerhaps we spend so much time trying to figure out what God is doing and saying through our epiphanies that we miss the real purpose of them – to draw us to worship. The sight of the star set the Magi into motion. They saw the star and they freed themselves to make the trip to worship the newborn savior king. Maybe we all need some sort of epiphany to point us to the place or posture of worship.

Over the Christmas holiday, my nearly 3-year-old grandson helped enlighten me about my own need to make worship a priority. One night before he fell asleep, he was lying in bed when he burst out in singing “Gloria, Gloria, Gloria,” the refrain of the Christmas song he heard earlier in the week. And then there was silence. A few moments later, he repeated his praises to God –this time adding “In excelsis Deo.” He had heard this chorus for the first time of his life earlier in the week, and now, he couldn’t help but continue to sing it as a way of praising God. It burst forth from his heart and broke the silence. The song was a part of him – and he sang God’s praises freely and joyfully over and over again.   In that moment as I stood in the hallway outside of his room, the light became clear to me.  It was an epiphany. My heart was filled with joy as I whispered – Gloria in excelsis deo, indeed!! Every day that we live should be guided by the Epiphany that opens our eyes to new understandings of the fact that a Savior has been born. And that leads us to worship. Come all, come everyone and worship!

Michael Clemmer is pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church and a LEADership minister in Franconia Conference.