Saturday, January 18, 2014

Holy Disruption--a sermon for 19 January 2014

Rev. Teri Peterson
PCOP
Holy Disruption
John 2.13-25
19 January 2014, NL 4-20

 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.



As many of you know, this fall we began using the Narrative Lectionary. That means that we read, essentially in order, through the broad arc of the scripture story throughout the year. We started with Genesis in September, and moved through some major Old Testament characters, then into the prophets, and now we find ourselves in the New Testament. This year we read from the gospel according to John, in order, until Easter.

There are lots of things that make John a different gospel than the other three. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell lots of the same stories and record the same sayings of Jesus, while John’s perspective is different. In John, we get no Christmas story, no sermon on the mount, no Last Supper, no praying in the garden of Gethsemane, no thieves on the cross next door. In John, we hear Jesus say things not mentioned before, like “I am the Good Shepherd” and “I am the resurrection and the life” and “I give you a new commandment—that you love one another as I have loved you.” In John, we meet all kinds of characters no one else mentions—the woman at the well, Lazarus, the disciple Nathaniel, Nicodemus, and the unnamed beloved disciple. And in John, the order of things is different. So while Matthew, Mark, and Luke write Jesus’ active ministry into one year, culminating in the trip to Jerusalem for Passover that led to his death, John writes of three years that Jesus and the disciples traveled, learned, taught, and ministered together. Which means that when we hear the words “The Passover was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” today, we have to remind ourselves that this is not the Passover of Holy Week, but rather the Passover two years before.

It’s weird to read this story of Jesus’ Temple Tantrum, as I like to call it, at the very beginning of his ministry. So far we’ve seen him gather a few disciples and turn water into wine. In many ways, this is the first very public thing he does, as opposed to how the other gospel writers place it as one of the last things he does.

You might be wondering what difference this all makes? Well, for one thing, it means that our journey through this season of Epiphany and the season of Lent will be different, because we’ll be reading the gospel in order rather than pulling pieces from here and there and moving them around to fit the season. But for another thing, it’s important for John to place this story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, because John is all about revealing who Jesus is—and the difficulty that arises because we cannot see.

So Jesus bursts on the scene, quite literally. And he does know how to make an entrance. In the midst of the bustling holiday season, when everyone understands the tradition and really wants it to go just so, when sacred animal specialists and currency exchange officers do their most robust business, Jesus comes in and disrupts the flow and ruins everything. Imagine if someone showed up the day before Christmas and shredded all the wrapping paper and poured out the eggnog. Or if someone went around and unplugged all the car batteries during Thanksgiving dinner, forcing us to stay home rather than go shopping.

Basically, Jesus walks into the center of religious reality, and disrupts everything with God’s reality instead. He looks around and sees that we’ve lost the point in the midst of all the trappings. Rather than experiencing God’s transforming power through the Temple rituals, we were insisting on the rules of the rituals. Rather than seeing our part in the story God has been telling since the beginning of time, we trapped the story in the Sunday School hour. Rather than coming together as the body of Christ to praise God, we focus on our individual connection with God, keeping others literally at arms length as we spread around the sanctuary sitting where we always have. Rather than wondering what pleases God in worship, or even what might help someone else in the room see God, we complain about what we don’t like. And so Jesus says: “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” These words make no sense, because of course this is how things are. What on earth can he possibly be talking about? This Temple has taken 46 years and we’re not done yet, and how do you think we pay for that? Anyway, this procedure has been in place since before you were born, so of course we’re going to keep doing it. If you want to say otherwise, do a miracle right now and prove we should listen to you.

Sound familiar?

One of my favorite sayings is that the seven last words of the church are “we’ve never done it that way before.” Or sometimes “we’ve always done it that way before.”

Don’t get me wrong—tradition is important. Telling our story matters. Knowing who we are and where we’ve been matters. But that is important because it gives us a clue about who we will be and where we are going. We’re part of a trajectory, and if we stop that trajectory in the days we liked best, we’ll miss the days that God has planned.

It seems to be human nature to construct systems that work for us, to set up rules and boundaries designed to control every detail. We like to feel in control, and that’s one way we do it—by naming who’s in and out, what’s good and bad, what matters and doesn’t matter. We do it by having committees and boards, because that’s the way things are done. We do it by insisting that our preferences are the right way, whether it’s music in worship or the way meeting agendas are organized. It can be hard to see outside our reality, whether that’s looking at another culture, or another family, or a holy disruption like the one Jesus brings.

And make no mistake—he does disrupt what we think is real. Every time. Because, as John will show us throughout the gospel, God’s reality made visible in Jesus is so much bigger, so much more beautiful, so much more inclusive, so much more radical than anything we can really live with. The holy disruption may not always be as drastic as driving the animals out of the Temple and turning over tables and pews. But this is what John tells us right at the beginning of the gospel: something’s coming. Keep your eyes open, and you just might see God walk in. But be ready, because for all we say we want to experience God’s presence, it’s entirely possible we might not like it when it happens.

So often we expect that having a God-moment will be comforting, peaceful, hopeful, nice and light. And that does happen. But what about when the God-moment turns everything upside down, speaks in cryptic quadruple entendre, and leaves us angry and confused? What about the God-moment that disrupts everything we thought we knew? What about the God moments we can see in people like Martin Luther King Jr, or the other people who rallied for civil rights against popular opinion? What about the prophets, both biblical and modern, who make us squirm as they point out how our privileged place in the system we have set up blinds us to the ways we hurt others? What about when God whispers a call we don’t want to hear?

In other words, what about when Jesus waltzes into the middle of everything we hold dear, and says “hey, look over here!” Because that’s what this is about: where we look. That’s why John puts this episode at the beginning of the gospel: because right off the bat, he’s breaking open our blinders and asking us to look—really look—at Jesus. Not at all the things we want Jesus to be, not at the ways we have insisted people interact with religion, not at ourselves and our desires, but at Jesus. In him we see Light. In him we see Truth. In him we see Love. In him we see what is Real, not what we have set up as real. In him we see God.

May we look, and may we see, even if it makes us uncomfortable.


Amen.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

in the doing--a sermon for 12 January 2014


Rev. Teri Peterson
PCOP
In the Doing
John 2.1-11
12 January 2014, NL4-19

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


This is my kind of miracle! Not only is water turned into the best wine ever, but it all happens so quickly and easily—one minute, everything’s a disaster, the next minute, everything’s not just fine, but amazing. From panic to party just like that (finger snap).

I suspect many of us long for a miracle. And while perhaps we usually confine ourselves to verbalizing our wish for healing miracles, the reality is that we want this kind of miracle too—the one where the deficit becomes an amazing surplus. Where is Jesus when we have a need, when we’re in crisis, when we don’t know what to do next? It seems like so many of us are running out of wine. Churches close because they don’t have enough people or money to keep doing ministry. Children go hungry in the richest country in the world. People are dying in the streets of our cities. The social safety net has holes bigger than whole families. Parents are selling their children into slavery to feed the rest of the family. Does Jesus not care about this? Does the lack we are experiencing not matter? It’s not as if no one has taken the role of Jesus’ mother, letting him know about the problem. Millions of people have prayed for help, and still people don’t have access to clean water, still the pledges don’t cover the salaries, still the shelter is overflowing on Wednesday night. I think it’s safe to say God knows. And I just cannot believe that God’s response has been “yeah…maybe later.”

We need a miracle.

So the part of me that’s looking for answers goes back to this story of water turning into wine, looking for just what happened. And it almost seems that nothing happened…or at least, it’s not clear what happened when.

There’s no big ta-da moment, no fireworks, no blind person jumping up and down “I can see!” In fact, no one except the servant who carries the “water that had become wine” to the chief steward knows what has happened. It was all behind the scenes.

Of course, when we look behind the scenes in any situation, we often find that’s where the real magic happens. Behind the scenes there is scurrying and working, there’s blood, sweat, and tears. This story is no exception—behind the scenes we find servants of a panicked family running back and forth between the well and the outskirts of the party, carrying bucket after bucket of water, for no apparent reason. All the servants know is that the family is about to endure unthinkably humiliation for being unprepared for the wedding, and that some guy told them to fill up the purification jars.

Jars that, between them, hold somewhere around 150 gallons of water.

So back and forth they go, filling buckets, emptying them, filling buckets, emptying them. Trying not to spill in their haste, because every spill means another trip to the well, another precious minute lost in the race to keep people from noticing the wine has run out. They fill the jars up to the brim, still with no idea why or how this will help the situation—simply trusting Jesus and his mother, they obey the request even though the outcome is unknown.

That, right there, sounds like the real miracle: they obey the request even though the outcome is unknown, and even though it’s a whole bunch of really boring work with no recognition or reward.

I wonder if that’s where we might find our miracle too. Not in waiting for God to do something about all our problems, but in obeying God’s call even when we don’t know what to expect, and even when it’s not very glamorous.

In other words, the miracle happens in the doing.

In this case, it was an easy yet boring request: fill these jars with 150 gallons of water. It was labor intensive work, but not fun. And they did it, and somewhere along the way, it wasn’t just water anymore.

How often might our calling be, essentially, to carry water? Back and forth, over and over. Eugene Peterson called it “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Obedience is a hard word. We don’t like to use it much, because it implies a hierarchy that most of us don’t want any part of. This is the land of opportunity, not the land of obedience, after all. Or it feels like something we train our pets to do, not something expected of us. Something in us rebels at the idea of submitting to another authority and obeying what we are told. And yet that’s exactly what God asks—that we obey, that we follow. And the calling is simultaneously simple and impossible: love God, love your neighbor, love your enemy. Not in feeling, but in action. Carry the water. Or, as Jesus’ mother says: do whatever he tells you.

Imagine if the servants had first said “why do we need to fill all of them? what’s the point of dealing with water? maybe there’s a way we can do this without all having to walk back and forth. how is this going to help the situation? why are you preparing for a ritual that’s already been completed? do you know how far it is to the well? did you see how he spilled the water? why can’t she just do it the way I do, it’s more efficient.”
But none of that seems to have happened. Jesus said “fill these jars.” The servants filled them to the brim. All that hard work, glossed over. No one likes their work to go unrecognized, which makes it even harder for us to obey. We want to be part of something amazing, and we forget that sometimes the ordinary miracle is just as awe-inspiring as the flashy show. I wonder if there would have been any miracle at all, if not for their obedience? The miracle will be in the doing.

On the individual level, this is easy to conceptualize even if it’s hard to do. We might obey by literally carrying water by shoveling the walkways and stairs before PADS opens Wednesday night, as Bill and Dave did on New Year’s Day. Or maybe it’s metaphorical water, making the same phone call to the same legislator to ask for the same compassion for those in need. Our water carrying could be simply showing up, week after week, extending a hand to welcome people to this space. It could be writing notes to those who visit every week, as Bev does. It could be offering a listening ear to a coworker or a friend, even one who talks too much. Our obedience moment may be difficult—like to stop someone from gossiping, however fun it might be for us, and whatever the social cost. We may be called, like French protestants in the mountains during World War II, to risk our own lives to shelter another. We may be called to forgive someone who has deeply wounded us. We may be called to stand up and speak for those whose voices are silenced. Or it may be easier—to offer a helping hand in cleaning up after coffee hour, or to join Pam in going to Deerfield bakery every Thursday afternoon. We may be called to be the ordinary heroes who live as Christ-followers in a world that prefers darkness.

It’s dangerous to use the word hero—it lets us off the hook, because surely we’re not heroes. They do something extraordinary, something we could never do. We’re just everyday people going about everyday lives…and there, in the ordinary things of everyday life, with the servants who are the heroes of this story, is exactly where Jesus’ first miracle happened.

And that miracle wasn’t just saving a party, though that is an important aspect of the story. After all, God desires that we live with joy. Part of what happened here is that Jesus brought the fun and merriment back. But the bigger part of this miracle is that the jars for the purification rituals, the huge and visible symbols that shaped the way people understood their relationship with God, symbols of the way things had always been, even though it didn’t lead to the transformation God desires—these symbols were dry…and then they were overflowing with the best God has to offer, they were turned into a new thing that made their old use impossible, and that grace brought joy and wonder beyond imagining.
In between the dry and the overflowing was obedience, and it was in the doing that the miracle happened.

That’s the kind of miracle we’d all love to see. Which means that’s the kind of obedience we need. Not just on an individual level, but as a whole church. So what is PCOP’s water to carry? What direction should our obedience take?

I don’t have the answer to that—I have lots of ideas, and I’m sure you do too. Our task is to discern—to listen for God’s call amidst the clamor of our own voices and wants and fears. Perhaps looking through the lens of our eye-words will help. Praying for the church, talking to one another about what we see and hear, and living our faith as individuals will all help too, as we seek God’s will for this community. Who knows, we may even find a miracle along the way.

May it be so.

Amen.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

the year of Plenty

In church on Sunday (and this coming Sunday, since weather prohibited so many from attending last week) we handed out little paper eyes with words written on them, and invited people to look through the lens of that word throughout the coming year. These eye-words (a variation on epiphany star words) will hopefully be a way to focus prayer, open us to outside-the-box thinking, and provide things for us to share in the community.

I told people as we passed the baskets to simply take a word without looking and pass it on--don't go through the basket looking for the right word, just take what comes to you and trust that it will be a vehicle of grace in the coming months.

Of course then when it was my turn to take a word, I immediately wanted to put it back for another one.
Granted, I didn't draw the dreaded Patience, so I should be grateful.


plenty.

the hopeful side of me (yay! plenty means a lot!) is offset by the cynical side (plenty of what? "opportunities" to practice patience?).

So the dictionary definitions of plenty include "adequate to meet the need" and "more than sufficient." That seems like a good definition to me. Enough. Not gorging, not overflowing, not ridiculous, just enough.

My therapist loves that I got this word, as she's been trying for two years to get me to think of myself as enough.

I think it's intriguing to be the pastor of a church, a pastor who preaches that God's abundance means there is always enough for everyone, not an overflowing ridiculous cornucopia, but enough for everyone…and, like many pastors of many churches, to know that "plenty" seems a lofty and unlikely thing (there's never enough money, people, time, etc)…and to ponder this word for a whole year.

Whose idea was this, anyway?

(the next word in the basket was "pleasure"…and you know that if I could have discreetly traded, I would have. but I was in front of the sanctuary and was 30 seconds away from admonishing people to stick with the word they got, so…)

SO: plenty. enough. adequate to meet the need. sufficient.

or, to use words that directly address one of my most recent laments: adequate for the task.

The part of me that is a perfectionist (okay, it's a big part…but surely some part isn't?) has its own internal rebellion going on right about now. I don't want to be just enough, not just adequate…I want to be amazing! Not just plenty, but overflowingly abundant. And I also want that in my own resources--more than enough money, time, energy. And in the church. And in the world. (yes, in that order…because this part of me is also selfish.)

So plenty will be a two-way word, I think. Pushing on my perfectionist self, and on my sense of unpreparedness for the tasks this year holds. Pushing on my understanding of what it means to be a pastor in this community and to be a person trying to live a life.

I think that's plenty for one year's pondering.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

insight v eyesight--a sermon for 5 January 2014

Rev. Teri Peterson
PCOP
insight v. eyesight
John 1.19-51
5 January 2014, Epiphany/Christmas 2/NL4-17/18

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord’,
as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you come to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”


Our eyes are amazing things. In just about 1-inch spheres, we have all the ingredients to see shape, color, light, dark, and movement. Our corneas bend light and focus it through our pupils, where it’s bent again by the lens, so the light hits the rods and cones and gets converted to electricity that can be carried by the optic nerve, so that our brains get the message that we see something over there.

Of course, sometimes this complicated process is hindered by degeneration, or by cataracts clouding over the cornea, or by tears or scratches or detachments or other impediments.

And sometimes our eyes, working or not, have nothing to do with whether we can see.

Really, our ability to see depends on one question: What are we looking for?

Maybe we’re looking for answers.
Maybe we’re looking for help.
Maybe we’re looking for inspiration.
Maybe we’re looking for community.
Maybe we’re looking for a job.
Maybe we’re looking for someone to blame.
Maybe we’re looking for a partner.
Maybe we’re looking for our next meal.
Maybe we’re looking for a way out.
Maybe we’re looking for a way in.
Maybe we’re looking for questions.
Maybe we’re looking for someone to save us.
Maybe we’re looking for the past to rise again.
Maybe we’re looking for a magic word.
Maybe we’re looking for something worth our energy, our time, our lives.

Jesus looks around at the two guys following a few steps behind him and says “what are you looking for?”

It’s a bit of a loaded question. Are they supposed to say “well, our teacher said you’re the Lamb of God, and the Lamb is all about liberation from oppression, so…I guess we’re looking for freedom.”? Or maybe they could look at each other and at the ground and kind of mumble something about not really being sure what they’re looking for, like most teenagers would? I can feel their uncertainty as they pause and go with “uh…where are you staying?” Which is definitely the most creepy stalkerish thing they could have answered. But Jesus responds to their uncertainty with an invitation: come and see.

I love this. I love that Jesus answers his own question—what are you looking for?—with “come and see.” I love that Jesus doesn’t say “well, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, go home until you do know.” I love that there are no threats, no fire and brimstone, no coercion. Just a simple invitation: come and see.

And I love that the invitation spreads—Andrew invites Simon, Philip invites Nathanael. People are actually bringing their +1s. And their seeing experience is mutual—Simon comes to see this man his brother has declared is the Messiah, and Jesus sees right into him and renames him on the spot. Nathanael, after revealing his own narrow vision through his casual yet cutting slur, comes to see and finds that he is the one who is finally really and truly seen, and he declares his change of heart, mind, and life. It seems that the invitation to Come and See is not just about us seeing Jesus, but also about seeing ourselves as Jesus sees us: as beloved people created and called by God.

When we accept this invitation to follow Jesus, the reality is that we have no idea what we’ll see. Because, as the disciples soon learn, Jesus is in the business of doing things we couldn’t imagine. Jesus is all about epiphany—insight, not simply eyesight. He is about revealing things we could not otherwise see, and inviting us to reveal that glory to others. Come and See…through new lenses, in a new way, so together we can create God’s new kingdom. Or, as Jesus said to Nathanael: “You will see greater things than these!”

And yet that pesky truth: it still matters what we are looking for. Because sometimes the things we’re looking for are like cataracts that cloud our vision of Jesus. Sometimes our desires degenerate into kingdom blindness. It takes practice to assess honestly what we are looking for, and to admit whether or not we are looking for the same things Jesus is. Just looking with our eyes is hard enough—so often we are wildly unobservant of our surroundings, let alone of things we do not want to see. How do we practice epiphany while we’re still practicing being mindful of the world around us?

Today I suggest two ways we can practice. Both are long-term endeavors, so perhaps consider adding them to your New Year’s resolutions!

First, how we look at the world. Because it’s not okay to simply look inward or heavenward and ignore the place God has set us down. God created the world and called it good, and put us here to be a part of the world’s journey to becoming the kingdom of God. Which means we do have to pay attention! Today you are going to be invited to pay attention to the world through a particular lens. You’ll be looking for how the Spirit moves, keeping both your eyesight and your insight open with the help of a focus word.


As we pass the baskets of eye-words through the pews, take one and keep it. Don’t overthink the choice, just take a word and pass the basket on, and trust that the Spirit is moving in whatever word you end up with. Let the word dwell with you and see what the Spirit will show you.
This word is yours for the whole year, to sit with, think about, pray, and look through. It might be a word you feel some resistance to, and that’s okay. Ponder what it is that makes you uneasy and pray that way. It might be a word you love, and that’s great—figure out how to make it part of your everyday life. It might be a word you don’t know the meaning of—excellent! Time for a dictionary and a Bible concordance. Whatever word you find yourself with, let it be a way for God to work in you over time. Let the word guide your prayer and your looking. Put it on your mirror or your fridge or your dashboard or computer screen, and when you see it, remember to look through different lenses. Talk about your word with friends and family and the person next to you in the pew. Look for signs of God’s grace coming through this word. Throughout the year I’ll be asking if anyone would like to share experiences of their eye-word, perhaps in worship or on the new church website. You can always post on the facebook page, or email me or Jess to post for you. Just as John testified—he told what he had seen, so that the Messiah might be revealed—we too can tell what we have seen so that the Messiah can be revealed among us and within us.

The second way we can practice epiphany is at the communion table…and every table. When we come to the table, we catch a glimpse of the kingdom of God—where just a taste of bread is like a feast for the senses, where people who are different in every way serve one another, where there is enough for everyone. In our ordinary world, these things rarely seem to be the case—we build walls rather than tables, there never seems to be enough of anything, and we race through meals and experiences trying to beat others to the next thing. But here at Christ’s table, glory peeks through our ordinary stuff, and though we cannot perceive it with our dull 1-inch eyeballs, we can still come and see. And once we’ve seen it here, we can see it other places too. Or, as Jesus said…you will see greater things than these! It’s one thing to experience grace at this table, and another to experience and offer it no matter what table you sit at. The communion table is not a performance stage, it’s a practice room. This is where we practice for every table, so that wherever we are, we can see and reveal God’s glory. We may only come to this particular table once a month, but the other 90 times we sit at table during a month are showtime. If we let epiphany insight take over, we may just find that the world is changing, one meal at a time. Kind of like Jesus did it.

Now here’s the thing: the way Jesus did it was both perfect and dangerous. It’s not popular to live by this kind of vision, nor to let this kind of light shine. But it is our calling. What are we looking for? Will we come and see?

May it be so.
Amen.