It was the end of another Christmas. I was flying home on the eve of Epiphany – you know, that time when the church celebrates the light of Jesus coming to the Gentiles. As a priest, being in tune to such details matters. However, tonight, I was focused on something different. I had a book to read, a book about a cult. I suppose in a roundabout way, it was relevant to Epiphany. I did want to proclaim Christ to the cult, eventually, but tonight, I was set on educating myself. I was going to read on that plane. Easy enough, right? Just keep your priorities straight. 1.) Don’t talk to strangers. 2.) Read.
Brutal! Colossal failure from square one!
I had sat down in seat 6F, and before Bob even had a chance to pull out his headphones, book, or phone, I held out my hand to shake his. That was my glorious mistake and I knew it instantly! God was on the move and when I realized the new privilege I had been given I quickly became more interested in Bob than I was in my own agenda.
I listened to him tell his story. I asked questions to find out more. I enjoyed his company. Bob soon wanted to know about me. I told him about my cult book, how I learned about the cult, and why I cared. He discovered I was an Anglican Priest. Bob was fascinated and he opened up about the spiritual forces of darkness in his life. He wanted to say more but he was cautious. I picked up on the obvious. He was unchurched and had a rocky life. And me? Well, I was a priest. So, in order to dispel any false notions that I’m holier than thou, I quickly interjected, “Don’t worry, Bob, I also work part time at a garbage dumb weighing trucks at a scale. When truck drivers discover I’m a Priest, they try to stop saying the f-word around me, but it’s so hard for them, they give up.”
We both laughed and Bob sighed a huge sigh of relief. Talking about Jesus was easy after that. Bob could relate to me now. We spent our whole flight unpacking Bob’s encounter with witchcraft and the horrors of demonic forces. I told him that Jesus provides freedom from oppression and that there is power and healing in Jesus name. I didn’t just say it, but Bob actually encountered it as we prayed.
That’s right… as we prayed! I laid hands on Bob right then and there and I blessed him in Jesus name. He cried real tears. It was powerful and effective, and filled with hope and truth.
As our plane descended, Bob told me he was smiling in a way he never had before. I knew Bob was encountering the joy of the Lord for the first time. He further told me that I was shining, but I explained that it was Jesus. After we went our separate ways, Bob texted me to thank me. He remarked that his eyes were “bright like 100 watt lightbulbs” and he commented that “his smile was filling the whole Vancouver airport.”
For Bob, the celebration of Epiphany came early. For me, what a privilege! God had touched us both. Bob and Jesus are now on a first name basis and God is once again redirecting my priorities to the proclamation of Christ. The book will have its time and place, but on that eve of Epiphany, it was proclamation time.
[This article first appeared in Light Magazine, used by permission.