Mystery and certainty

January 31, 2018 at 6:00 AM

This oil canvas painting by Serbian artist Darko Topalski depicts the epiphany season that we are in now.

(Editor's note: Rev. Deb Mechler of Spencer, Iowa, is a member of a Partnership Ministry Team to Kayes, Mali. She serves as the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Royal, Iowa.)

Mystery and certainty

By Rev. Deb Mechler

We are in the season of Epiphany for those who observe the church year calendar.  It began on January 6 and ends on Shrove Tuesday, before Ash Wednesday and Lent.

In Epiphany we celebrate the revelation of Jesus to the world. This seems especially relevant to the great family of the Luke Society spread across the globe.  

The magi – or wise men – represent the world, having come from a far country.  The word “epiphany” itself is defined as “a sudden, intuitive ... insight into the …essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence.” (  

Everything falls into place in a moment of epiphany. The birth of Jesus is just that kind of event, because he makes sense of all that comes before him. None of the prophets knew that the one who would embody all their hopes would arrive in the person of an infant. But God offered the always-intended solution to their troubles, and Jesus’ arrival formed the shape of their yearning many years later.

Everything after Jesus was illuminated by his birth, too.  Jesus was the “new thing” God had promised to bring to pass, and his cross established God’s mercy toward us for all time.

We love those epiphanies.  “The veil parts, we see the not-yet now, we glimpse the mystery and beauty at the heart of all that is, we see things as they really are and not as they usually appear” (Kimberlee Conway Ireton, “Waking to Mystery,”  Weavings [Vol. XXI, No. 1], p. 22).

An “aha” moment makes everything crystal clear, but it only lasts that long — a moment.  For some reason our native air in this life is mystery.  Perhaps your call to medicine and to the Luke Society was like that. Mysterious, but unmistakable. 

We have been taught that mystery is the realm of things we cannot know. Yet, God has chosen to be revealed to us in many ways, in many times. Another way to regard mystery is that it is infinitely knowable. The whole is out of our reach, yet we continue to glimpse the parts, one at a time, seeing enough to reassure us that God is there, and wanting more.  Always wanting more. 

There are so many things about which we want to be certain, but we cannot.  The Scriptures do not tell us everything. Perhaps God has made it that way so that our minds will not be overwhelmed with more than we can bear. But these things are clear: a star, a cross, an empty tomb.

A bit of communion bread in your hand and the sip from the cup to keep your senses tuned to the mystery we depend on; the gratitude of a patient; the sigh of relief after a hard day’s work. And this: the love at the heart of the universe came to us as a baby, and that love calls you.

Like the magi, you must heed the call, or be lost. 

Next story:

Overcoming obstacles