Listen With Your Heart
When we listen with our hearts we connect with what rings true. The magi had courageous curiosity to follow their hearts into unknown and scary territory. Epiphany is the revelation that God's people are all people, called to follow the truth that connects our hearts.
One of the things that’s unique and cool and amazing about the feast of the Epiphany is that we don’t hear from Jesus. It's not just that we don't hear from him. The stories aren't really about him. I know, I know, he is born. But these celebrations celebrate much more than that.
It's about how everything changed. How we went from thinking God was separate from us, to an event that revealed God is one with us. How we went from thinking God was working with a specific group of people, to an event that revealed God is working God's purpose out through all the people.
Christmas and Epiphany are ultimately about changing our perspective, how we see every thing. How we make room for a new way of seeing to be born in us.
Paul signals this with the phrase "in Christ." Because Christ is not Jesus’ last name. Christ is a title, the anointed one. And now that you and have have "access to God" we are with boldness and confidence to live "in Christ." That is how we will see the rich variety of the wisdom of God in - every thing.
The contemplative teacher and author James Finley says this about the revelatory way in which everything changes with the incarnation,
Our faith does not teach us that God became incarnate in someone named Jesus 2,000 years ago. Our faith teaches us that in the person of Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago it has been revealed that God became incarnate as us. That’ God’s life and our life are one life.
This is what Jesus teaches us in practical ways every other Sunday outside of Christmas and Epiphany.
This is what Paul is talking about in this morning's excerpt and throughout the letter of Ephesians. Which is probably why so much of our liturgical language comes from this letter. We believe that "praying shapes believing." The words of Ephesians are intended to shape our faith, in Christ.
God’s life and our life are one life. This is the mystery. This is what has been revealed. It is no longer a hidden purpose – but as you and I live and see and move and have our being in Christ – we can point to the wisdom of God in its rich variety.
We are all one in Christ. What does that mean? It means we see the light, the potential in ourselves and all people. We see people – and not labels. We see people – and not denominations. We see people – and not categories. And when we catch ourselves – and I catch myself all the time – seeing the labels, or categories – and making judgments or getting defensive or getting scared – we get curious, maybe courageous even – and ask ourselves – who and where are the people. What are the truths that connect us as people?
Here is an excerpt from a poem – tell me if it makes sense to you – Be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder Help someone’s soul heal Walk out of your house like a shepherd.
Of course it makes sense to you! You’re spiritual people, and most of you know it. Be a lamp – you’ve done that. You’ve been a light in someone’s life – you’ve shed light on a path, a choice, a decision. You and you know you have – brought light when someone is in darkness. (If you think you never have, you’re wrong, because you’re bringing light to me right now)
Be a lifeboat – you’ve helped people – this church has helped a lot of people. In your own lives I'm sure you've rescued someone from something.
Be a ladder – I know you’ve given someone somewhere a leg up – or you’ve connected a person to something they need – you’ve helped someone get to where they need to go.
Help someone’s soul heal – oh my goodness you have! Have you loved, have you cried with someone? Have you celebrated – have you acknowledged – have you forgiven someone? Have you accepted forgiveness? Or given a person a hug, held their hand, looked someone in the eyes? There are so many ways in which we bring healing to people’s souls.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd. Isn’t that a beautiful line? I can almost envision it above the door of this house. Because shepherds care for people. And we would hope sitting here as the household of the Good Shepherd, that we are being formed as shepherds too.
Be a lamp or a ladder or a lifeboat Help someone’s soul heal Walk out of your house like a shepherd.
That poem was written by someone named Mohammed. Born in the 13th c. in what we now call Afghanistan and died in Turkey.
He came from a long line of preachers in the Sufi tradition. Sufism is a branch of Islam – like Episcopal is a branch of Christianity.
Ghengis Khan invaded where he was born so his family fled – and he lived all over – Uzbekistan, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and studied in Aleppo and landed in Turkey for the last 50 years of his life.
Now, he is known to us as Rumi. His poetry finding a resurgence in the 20th and 21st centuries. Because it speaks to our hearts - and transcends denominations, place and time. The poetry though – the wisdom – be a lamp or ladder or lifeboat – transcends that
Rumi died in 1273 and wrote that his religion was a religion of love – a religion of God – that crossed all traditional denominational boundaries.
When I read his poetry, it speaks to our hearts. When I say the words - Afghanistan, Islam, Aleppo - it speaks to our heads. We hear places and denominations and categories. Our brain starts judging and separating – and I think, if I’m honest, defending, getting scared – because of what those places conjure.
This is why curiosity can be courageous. Having the courage to notice when we are doing that so we can lean in and find what connects us as people.
The magi were curious and courageous people. They went into a foreign land ruled by a scary guy. We read that Herod was frightened and all of Jerusalem with them – because Jerusalem was scared of what Herod was going to do. A fearful leader leads to a fearful and anxious system.
The magi went there and asked questions that got them noticed. It didn’t take them 12 days to find where that star hung in the sky – it took them about two years – and I gotta believe it wasn’t an easy journey.
I keep hearing that 2020 is the year of perfect vision. As someone who cringes at the word perfect, has never enjoyed perfect vision, and is learning how quickly vision declines as I age - that tagline doesn't speak to me.
But I also heard that 2020 is the year of insight, and that I get. The magi were insightful, they knew what questions to ask. They trusted their intuition because they had cultivated wisdom and could see it in its rich variety. Maybe as outsiders, they had to do that to survive.
In Ephesians Paul prays that we might have insight that we may see with the eyes of our heart enlightened. That we may see and live as though we all are one in Christ.
In another Rumi poem he says – look at me not with the outward eye but with inward vision of the heart. Follow me there and see how unencumbered we become.
I would pray all of us have as our resolution for a new year to trust the inward vision of our hearts. To be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder. To heal someone’s soul. To walk out of this house like a shepherd. Amen.