Happy New Year Gracious People of God,
In Frederick Buchner’s devotional book, Listening to Your Life, January 1 begins with this, “I discovered that 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 on Rupert Mountain opened up onto extraordinary vistas.” And concludes with: “If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both 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 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.” (p. 2)
As we enter into this new year and the 3rd season of the church year, Epiphany, I invite you to keep your eye peeled and open your ears and pay attention to what God is revealing before you and in the midst of our community. In Advent we prepared for the coming of the Lord. In the 12 days of the Christmas season we celebrated the incarnation of Jesus. God became one of us and one with us. In the season of Epiphany we keep our eye peeled and our ears open to see the manifestation of God in Jesus. The incarnation of Jesus takes flesh, so pay attention to what that looks like in Jesus’ life, in your life and our lives together.
This life that we have been given is grace. Pay attention to what God is up to and revealing to you and our community. Try an Epiphany word, which is a word that you take from a basket on the Sunday of Epiphany, January 6 and carry it with you through the year.
Last year my epiphany word was JOY. I enjoyed watching and looking for joy and exploring the grittiness from which joy emerges. When I paid attention, I was rewarded with Christmas ornament that stayed out the whole year to remind me. I scented my body with an essential oil called Joy that I had lost track of amidst other perfumes. And when the scent of joy ran out, I entered into the grittiest joy of the year.
You know that my mother died in November. She had long journey with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which her cancer doctor told her would not be the cause of her death and she learned how to live with cancer. The cancer moved from a slow growing to a faster growing but yet she navigated it. The cancer compromised her immune system which meant that she was treated for colon cancer. She also had osteoporosis which focused on her back. So when she fell and fractured a vertebra, we knew it would be a long and painful journey to heal. So it is with a gritty kind of joy that a bladder infection moved quickly to her kidney and spread throughout her body.
It is the gritty kind of joy that I thank God that we could all be there to usher her through the gate of death and place her and ourselves into God’s tender care. She was ready. We knew that. She would not want to have laid around waiting for her body to heal. My mom and dad’s pastor had lead us in a beautiful service of scripture, song and reassuring and familiar words of hope in Jesus, our good shepherd. And our cousin talked about how our mom had all taught us to pray that bed time prayer and so all 5 of us as her children prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray dear Lord my soul to keep, if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. And this I ask for Jesus’ sake, Amen.” And we scented her with lavender and bid her farewell.
With a tearful gritty joy, we held her hand, cried and comforted one another and gave thanks to God for her and the ways in which she gifted our lives. And when she died, we sang, “Praise God From Whom All Blessing Flow” in a slow processional way as she returned to the one who created her and gifted us with her. It is a gritty joy but joy nonetheless.
I wonder what word I will draw this year and I wonder what the Holy Spirit has in the works for us?
Believing It Boldly Loving Expansively,
Pastor Connie Spitzack