Epiphany at Heatherhope Shows Forth the Work of God

At our bonfire of greens we sang "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and other songs. Photo by John

The day and season of Epiphany is a celebration of the many ways God’s work is manifest in our lives. (The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek for “show forth.”)

Here at Heatherhope we have an simple annual celebration that has become quite a favorite for many, and this year’s gathering was certainly a powerful “showing forth” of God’s presence and activity for close to happy participants.

It was a particularly welcome edition of the festivities for John, who this time last year was hospitalized, forcing a cancelation of the event.

But this year both John and Connie were healthy and the weather was fantastic. Like most of the central section of the nation we are having a very mild winter, and on Sunday, January 8, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. the temperature stayed just a bit above freezing, there was very little wind, and the clouds parted till the moon and stars shone in a perfectly clear night sky.

As usual we gathered in the house for Connie’s famous barbecued, pulled chicken sandwiches, mulled cider and various other beverages, and veggies, salads and desserts brought by the guests. Then we gathered around a Christmas tree and greens bonfire which was augmented this year by the broken-up pieces of the old church sign that used to be along the road in front of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Finally, we gathered in the barn for our Celtic Epiphany worship, using chants, responses and songs that arise out of the spirituality found among the Irish, Scotts and Welsh—very appropriate for sheep farm with Border Collies.

Though we have always had a few of our DeKalb County neighbors at our Epiphany gatherings, the great majority of our guests in years past were from St. Luke in Glen Ellyn. But this year we had a good balance, with many of our new friends from Salem Lutheran in Sycamore and others, including retired Lutheran pastor, Harold Grafe and his wife, Sue.

Of course there were friends who are from other churches and from with no church affiliation at all. And that’s the way we hope all of our gatherings will be. We take seriously Jesus’ mission as the Good Shepherd who gathers not only the sheep of his own fold, but sheep that don’t “belong.” Because, of course, all of us belong as part of the human family, created, redeemed and loved by the one great God.

We conclude our observances with Celtic Epiphany worship in the sheep barn. Photo by John

One of the blessings of the Epiphany gathering for Connie and me is to see the young people enjoy themselves, and to hear from parents that all of them very much look forward to each year’s gathering. The youngest this year was little, three and a half-year old Davy, who seemed to fall in love with our big old guard dog, Frodo. The teenagers, of course, loved the fact that our barn was still quite full of hay, and they could situate themselves just under the high roof for the worship service.

We try to compose some new elements to our Epiphany worship service each year. This year we included this little litany of stillness which is designed to help people experience God’s activity all around them. I believe that all of us felt strongly that the loving God was indeed moving among us in the spirit of the people gathered. There were so many warm smiles and hugs shared by people of all kinds of backgrounds and ages. We could even sense it in the eyes of the sheep, Frodo the guard dog, and Abbie the sheepdog and her puppies. (You can find our entire Epiphany liturgy under the “John’s Writings” tab along the top of our web page. ) Here is the litany:

 

Stillness and Response

Be still and silent for a moment. Become aware of God’s presence and active power, around you and in you. Also be still and silent for a moment between each response.

 

L          Oh Father,

C         In this night, open our eyes to the bright light of Christ.

 

L          O Christ,

C         In every silence, open our ears to hear your voice.

 

L          O Spirit,

C         In every pain, open our hearts to your healing.

 

L          O Father,

C         In every lonely time, open our arms to saints you send our way.

 

L          O Christ,

C         In every sorrow, open our imagination to your coming kingdom.

 

L          O Spirit,

C         May your light shine through us that all people would be gathered to the shining of the star of Bethlehem and to your eternal love.  Amen

 

If you missed this years’ Epiphany at Heatherhope, we hope you will consider being with us next year.

 

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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