O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith that we may behold him in all his redeeming work.
-A prayer from Easter Week
Open our eyes that we may behold the wonders of your law.
-from Psalm 119
I heard a story this weekend told by a woman in her 60’s. She remembered her father, now deceased, a military man who was away a lot as she grew up. But when he was home, he would have a pre-dawn breakfast with his daughter. Just the two of them, meeting over bowls of Grape Nuts. And they would each talk about miracles they had seen the day before. Decades after these breakfasts, this woman still remembers the early morning God-sightings. Not a bad spiritual practice. Not a bad way to begin a day. Not a bad way to be family. Not a bad breakfast.
When I was rector in Chicago, it was my privilege and joy to travel with our young people for a mission trip each summer. We boarded busses, headed for communities where people needed minor construction done on their homes. We pledged to leave places better than we found them, which happened most of the time. I invoked the Hippocratic Oath, which most of the time was fulfilled.
The program was well organized, so that many youth groups came together, with hundreds of teenagers staying for a week in a high school. I’ve had better night’s sleep. (I usually found a remote corner for my sleeping bag which I called “The Rectory.”) The teenagers were divided into work teams, serving along side people from other churches. At the end of each workday, we’d reunite for dinner, fun, games, and worship. Let’s just say that the latter wasn’t Anglican chant. Not particularly contemplative. Lots of lively music, funny skits, teaching and preaching. And the following interesting feature.
At one point in the liturgy, the worship leader would invite young people to come forward and share God-sightings. Open mic testifying. Where had they seen God that day? So picture this. We’re all in a gym, in bleachers. Our group, good Episcopalians, climbed to the absolute back row, a bit skeptical, smugly resistant to this exuberant worship, suspicious of the theology. The first night or two, our group sat back, with arms folded.
But I remember that night, as I sat with our young people, when one of our young people clomped noisily down the bleachers, making his way to the mic where he shared his God-sighting. Not exactly an Anglican thing to do. But it was simple and beautiful and authentic. In nights that followed, other members of our group did the same. They spoke of small kindnesses, a homeowner who brought a cool glass of lemonade to break the summer heat. Others spoke of the faithful courage with which homeowners navigated poverty and illness.
We returned to the parish. Young people were given opportunity to preach, to talk about work trip. Their sermon text? They offered God-sightings, which launched a new dynamic in the congregation. People began to keep an eye out for God-sightings. Parishioners of all ages, including most reserved and proper pillars of the church, shared the ways that they saw God at work. Unprecedented in my experience. Epiphany began yesterday. It’s a season (a long one this year) when the church talks about God-sightings. We began with the three wise men from the east, ending with the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop. In between those two stories, we find a great variety of God-sightings that show up in the gospel reading in Sunday. Listen for them on upcoming Sundays.
And then look for your own God-sightings. Where do you see God at work in your world? You might see God on a walk in the woods or a ride on the subway. You might have a God-sighting when you have dinner with those who share your household. You might have a God-sighting when you watch the news with stories from the other side of globe. The sightings are there. And there is great, transformative value in living life with an eye open for God-sightings.
The reason for this season? Remarkable epiphanies happened in the story of Jesus. Ordinary epiphanies happen to us all the time. Do we have eyes to see them? Are we expecting them? Can we wake up to them this week? Start each day asking God to help you see them. End each day noting how that happened.
As part of The Good Book Club, I’ll be leading an online Bible Study for 8 weeks, starting on January 9, Wednesdays at 8pm EST. Topic: Paul’s letters to the Romans. Learn more here. I hope you will join me!
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.