The Gift of a Courageous Heart: An Epiphany reflection, part two

In Spanish, the word for heart is “corazón;” in French, it’s “coeur.” The word for courage is “coraje” in Spanish and “courage” in French.

In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’

Brené Brown, in her book I Thought It Was Just Me, writes, “Courage is a heart word… In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’”

The story of Epiphany is a story of courage. Courage borne of the heart, not a star, is the actual guide.

In the end, the Magi chose to save themselves. Some say the gifts given to the Holy Family were a gift to pay for their asylum-seeking passage. But the Wise Men did not choose the most courageous way. They could have returned five measly miles to Herod. They could have invited the Holy Family to return with them or offered accompaniment to them and other families with small boys to Egypt or some other place of refuge.

The most courageous figure in this story is baby Jesus whose only defense against terror is his spit up and poop.

For God so loved the world that God offered us all of God’s heart.

For God so loved the world that God offered us all of God’s heart. But God wasn’t just made incarnate; God became vulnerable to the powers of death and oppression. God emptied Godself and first took on the form of a vulnerable baby.

Vulnerability is Jesus’ superpower. And it could be the best gift the Church has to offer to a world where we have become increasingly irrelevant.  

Brene Brown says vulnerability is managing uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. 

We don’t like uncertainty. What does the future hold? We’re uncertain, and that’s unsettling.

The risk of following a God-sized dream frightens us. We have bills to pay, children to protect, and a social ladder to climb. Some dreams of a better world are too risky, so we settle for pragmatism without vision.

And to speak honestly about our hopes and fears is too vulnerable. It penetrates our self-protection armor. So we keep discussions intellectual and safe.

When the “three kings” of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure frighten us, we might choose to run, but running often leads to unintended consequences. So another defense mechanism for coping with these inner tyrants is putting on whatever armor we find that makes us feel more secure. Perfectionism, control, corrupted power, and a critical spirit are the armor we don to protect ourselves from uncertainty.

It is a burden to carry that heavy armor with us everywhere.

Jesus, not Santa nor the Magi, offers us a gift on Epiphany.

With this new armor of courageous, wholehearted vulnerability, we find rest for our souls. 

Jesus’ gift is learning from him that a courageous heart is gentle and humble. Following Jesus’ wholehearted way, we drop our armor and put on vulnerable garments like truth, righteousness, the Good News of Christ, faith, salvation, and the Spirit. And with this new armor of courageous, wholehearted vulnerability, we find rest for our souls. 

The Magi, for all their wisdom, were off by five miles. Just five miles.

What if, for all our wisdom, we’re just off by inches? What if a life of privilege, intellect, or a well-designed armor of perfectionism, control, or power, has taken us off course from the Vulnerable Christ we claim to follow?

Good news. We don’t have to travel five miles to find Him; all we need to do is take the shorter but often more arduous journey from our head to our heart. And there we find the love of God, who gave us his gentleness and humility so that we can rest, even in the uncertainty of our finite days.

Remember my questions about the future of this congregation that I answered with uncertainty? Let me close by saying this:

In this life, we face great uncertainty. I am convinced, however, that the story of the Epiphany serves as a reminder. If even a few of us will live from the center of courageous hearts and embody the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, we will be a contagious community. Every time we bravely put flesh onto our faith, we make the church and ourselves a little more daring, bolder, stronger, and Christlike. 

Photo courtesy of Adriana Cecchi.

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