I do not occupy myself with great matters...

One of the truths I start to recognize and own at this point in the journey is how often I am preaching to myself. Once, while speaking with a sculptor who did some of the work on the new Roman Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles, I asked where she went within herself in pursuit of creatively re-interpreting the ancient biblical narratives. After a short pause, she smiled and said something like, "I have to let the story move me at a primal place - really touch me - and then I create out of what the story says to me because... whatever is most personal is also almost always most universal." 

Other writers, poets, activists and musicians have reinforced this paradoxical insight: when I tell my deepest truths, I am talking to most people. When I ask my most vexing questions, I am articulating the anxieties of many others regardless of race, gender or class. Brother Buechner puts it like this:

I have discovered if you really keep your eye peeled to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it, even such a limited and limiting life as the one I was living... opened up onto extraordinary vistas. Taking your children to school and kissing your wife goodbye. Eating lunch with a friend. Trying to do a decent day's work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compelling and hauntingly... If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this:  Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than in the excitement and the gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments - and life itself is grace.

My quest for rest, it would seem, is something many of us long for; my aching
to trust God more fully is something that haunts others, too. And the more honest I am about this quest in my own experience, the more I connect with others. This morning, I spent time with some of the children, youth and parents of my congregation in a run through of tomorrow's Epiphany pageant. I am always blessed by hanging with this crew - the enthusiastic and those still nursing a grudge because they had to get out of the house and come to church with a sibling - the young, the innocent and those just about to step into maturity. And I find myself grateful for the parents who gather in the Sanctuary to do this one more time, too. Nobody does church any more out of obligation so my heart is gladdened when families make the choice to be a part of this old, old story one more time.

O Lord, 
   I am not proud; I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters,
   Or with things that are too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet 
   like a child upon it's mother's breast,
   my soul is quieted within me.
O Israel, wait upon the Lord,
   from this time forth and for evermore.

Tomorrow we will worship God with our small pageant. It will be humble and it will be holy. I will share a few simple thoughts about the blessed mystery of Epiphany and how it calls us to receive the "gifts of the Magi" with gratitude. We will host an Epiphany party after worship, too with games, songs and good food. And then we'll do band practice to start regrouping for next Sunday's concert (our rescheduled gig from Thanksgiving Eve.) Today I can say with confidence that life - and God - is good. 



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