We are rapidly coming to the close of the season known as Epiphany. The word epiphany literally means to “show forth”, “to reveal”- in other words to have a revelation as the wise men did when they recognized the baby Jesus as the Messiah. And as this season of the church comes to a close, I too am coming to a close- I am closing the door on my youth. I will be forty years old next week. I have been mentally preparing for this day for quite sometime by pondering on what it is I have gleaned in forty years of living. Some things I have learned are rather mundane and yet other things have helped me I believe to evolve into what God would want me to be. I wish to share some of my insights with you this morning.
I have had an epiphany about people who work on seating arrangements at fundraisers and charity dinners. They work tirelessly for hours on this job and some of them have shared with me the difficulty of arranging who sits with whom. When I have asked why is it so difficult to seat people? The person always looks shocked that I could ask such a question and then proceeds to explain in great detail that “well, we can’t seat her next to him because she is best friends with his ex-wife and we of course can’t seat these two men together because they are in competitive businesses” and the reasons continue along these lines. And here is my epiphany: I actually think God gets excited when two people who might not get along have to sit next to each other. Secretly, I think He is hoping they might make up or perhaps even become friends. In fact, I am sure that nothing pleases him more than watching someone come late to church, only to find that the only seat available is next to someone he doesn’t care for, and then to top it off they have to walk up to communion together and kneel next to one another at the rail and drink from the same cup and pray to the same God! Imagine if that were to happen all the time!
As a parent I have had a few revelations too. Is there anything or anyone we wouldn’t take on to protect and spare our children? Lord, let me have the lisp, let me have the weight problem, let me have the learning challenge, let me not get in that school, let me be sick, -just not my child- and yet, we know that often the greatest growth comes with some pain or hurt. In fact, some of the people that I respect the most have overcome something great in their life or carried a load that forever changed them into who God would have them to be.
I have also learned that everyone needs someone who believes in them. Everyone needs at least one person in their life who is an encourager rather than a discourager, someone who builds up instead of tears down. Someone who says “you can be anything you want to be-the sky is the limit- and I will help you to achieve your heart’s desire- because I believe in you.” For me, I was fortunate to have two people play this role in my life. One person was my mother and the other was and is Randy. Here I was from a diocese that did not ordain women and yet, I felt called to be a priest. My mom and Randy were always right there, for every step of the long process. I can still see my mom walking across the courtyard at Christ Church in Alexandria. I was giving my first sermon and she had surprised me by flying up for the service. Just before I was to walk into the church, she took her cross off from around her neck and put it around mine and said “I always knew God had grand plans for you. I love you.” Everyone needs someone to believe in them. It might be a parent or a spouse but it might also be a grandparent or a boss or a teacher or a mentor or a sister or a friend. But everyone in this life needs someone to raise them up to be all God would want them to be. If you can serve as this person in someone’s life I promise that it will be a transforming experience. There is no more rewarding ministry than helping God’s children find their way in this life.
I know there is a popular book out now on the best seller’s list called “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and I confess that I have not read it. But, I disagree with it based simply on the title. You see, I think it’s all about the small stuff.
I think the small stuff is the heart of the matter. Let me explain with a story about two dear friends of mine. There is a wonderful woman I know named Andrea, who lost a son in a tragic accident years ago. My friend, Ann, wanted to say something meaningful, something comforting and consoling to Andrea about her loss, but she struggled for adequate words. After all, what could she possibly share? She had never experienced the depths of that kind of suffering. Finally, she wrote down these words on a piece of stationary and mailed the letter: “May God give you strength. Love, Ann”. Several years went by and Ann found herself in a similar place. Her husband died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack at their eldest child’s graduation from college. Ann had to return home to tell her five other young children what had happened, which was devastating. She said the next few weeks and months were a blur. People came by and called and brought food, and she went through her mail and read beautiful letters about her husband. But the letter that meant the most to her came from Andrea. You see Andrea had saved Ann’s letter from years before and at the bottom of the very same note that Ann had sent underneath the words “May God give you strength” she wrote simply: “He does. Love, Andrea.”
You see the most meaningful moments in life, the moments that connect us together as human beings, the moments that are Christ like, are very often I believe the small things in life. The note that comes unexpectedly in the mail, the food that arrives at your house when you are ill, the spontaneous hand that comes out to hold yours when you least expect it, the hug that lasts a little longer than usual because the person wants you to know just how much they care for you, the soft “I love you” from your child’s lips as you tuck them into bed after what seems like an eternity of a day, the mom who tells her daughter she can be anything she wants to be, the “I’m sorry” that comes from someone you thought could never utter those words. These moments, these small moments are what I like to call Christ like moments. Moments where Christ would be pleased that we are helping to bring in our own small way God’s kingdom here on earth. Let us never lose sight of the small moments, the small gestures that keep us connected and make us feel loved and whole, those moments that give us a sense of belonging, a sense of being a part of the body of Christ. For isn’t that what we all crave? And more importantly, let’s give all the Big Stuff to God through prayer. We can’t control how an operation will turn out, we can’t control what college accepts us, we can’t control if our cancer will return, we can’t control whether someone will like us or whether they will judge us, – so give it away. Give it to God and instead take care of the Small Stuff that we can control.
In closing, I wish to say that I have found the following words to be a great comfort in my life and they are simply: ” I am worthy because God made me.” Learn these words. Make them your mantra in your darkest moments, during your most vulnerable days, when you feel insecure or sad or frail, when you lose your job, or your spouse walks out, or you feel unloved, or your business fails, remember how special you are simply because you are God’s child. Refuse to be defined any other way and you will grasp what it means to know the peace which passes all understanding.
Let us pray: As we all travel life’s journey hoping to come closer to Christ every step of the way, may we each be granted as the wise men were truths about what is meaningful and valuable in life and what is not; and may we always know the difference and raise that which is good and holy up for other people. AMEN.