The dog ate my sermon. I had something so beautiful. The dog didn’t exactly eat my sermon, but basically my two dogs in my life, and the million distractions, and my lazy attitude, and my fearful self, and the hours I spent fretting over things I cannot change instead of reciting the serenity prayer, all ate all the time I was going to use to write something magnificent. What’s your excuse? What’s your excuse for not doing what your potential was for your spiritual journey? That is the way today started out for me with when I was reflecting on this gospel. Those disciples with our Lord did not start out on the mountain. This is the end of Epiphany, not the beginning. This is the conclusion. You don’t get the mountaintop without a lot of other things and there are a lot of reasons people don't want to go to the mountaintop. “I would love to go with you all, but the weather is supposed to be awful.” “I would love to go to the mountaintop, do you know how much I have on me right now? With my work and my kids and my finances, there is no way for me to go.” “I just got out of jail and I am on parole, there is no way I can go to the mountain.” “I’m sick. I can’t go.” “I’m not supposed to go to the mountaintop, I am supposed to tell you all to go to the mountaintop.” What’s our excuse? This season started with an idea of looking up at the stars. “I can’t look up at the stars, I will trip every time if I am trying to go on the path.” And then the season continues with the idea of the gift of prophecy, not about telling the future, but about the spiritual gifts of all of us speaking love into the present. Or else we are nothing but clanging symbols. “I would love to talk about love, except it sounds ridiculous sometimes.” In the fields that are political and the fields of economics, in the fields where you think you are talking about global issues, it seems silly to talk about love. There are a million reasons we don’t, we don’t head out on this journey.
But this Sunday is the last Sunday.The disciples have wandered around, they have preached, they have gone through the valley of the shadow of death. They have climbed in spite of their fears and wanderings up to a mountain, and they glimpsed the face of God.
Last night we had a celebration and it was beautiful, wasn’t it Hal? The Light Bearers’ night. And we invited some of the long-term, big givers and volunteers of Thistle Farms to come sit in a room. And in that room you could not remember who the givers and who the receivers were. Everybody was bathed in a light. And it was a light of gratitude. It was all of us feeling grateful. That was the warm and beautiful light going on in that room. You’re giving to me. I am giving to you and we’re both so grateful to be there.
And now I am convinced that my lesson for Epiphany of this year that will carry me up the mountaintop is gratitude - the path of the mountaintop is gratitude. Gratitude for it all. For everything we have gone through and everything we know and everything we have forgotten, and everything that has been done to us, and everything we have done to find a sense of gratitude that will lead us to a place to know that we have communion with God.
Just the day before, before the Light Bearers’ gift, before Isabel (Allende) and her beautiful team came, we gathered together as a community at Thistle Farms. In this big community of 72 people who are a part of the circle, now continuing to shine that light, there was a new woman, 24 hours into the program off the street. I was looking at her and I was thinking do you have any idea how many candles we have lit to get you here? 25, 30 thousand candles were waiting for you. I felt so grateful and it was like meeting the biggest celebrity I could imagine. Not that I know any celebrities. I am saying, it’s huge. The most honored guest, the beloved one, the prophet sitting amongst us. Nothing but gratitude that she was willing to come and what happened was when we acknowledged her is all she could do is weep, to be sitting in the middle of a community that had been waiting and loving her for a long time before we even knew her name. So we all just cried. You don't have to speak.You don’t have to have words for it. When you feel that kind of depth and gratitude after going through a lot of epiphanies and trying to understand prophesy and speaking love and when you encounter the other, it is easy to see the face of God. And to feel that transformation and gratitude that takes you to your knees. It is not foreign to us, what they experienced on that mountain. Is it? No, we have seen it, we have glimpsed it. We have glimpsed love incarnate in our midst.
I want to go to the mountain with you all more than anything in my life. I want to go with everybody who believes that love heals. I want to go with a community that wants to be with each other. To remember how it is we speak love and how it is we recognize God in each other. Think of what we would miss if we didn’t go, right? We would miss that wonderful feeling of bad cell coverage, of laying all that stuff aside that we thought was so important and just being together. We would miss those moments that are hysterical—where somebody trips and you are not supposed to laugh, and everybody laughs and one person maybe has just a tiny bit of an accident. And their laugh is so hard that it makes it even funnier. We would miss that moment when we were done for the day and we worked so hard and we sit around and we light a candle or a fire and we tell stories and recount the moment. We would miss that surprise when out of nowhere we hear the flutter of a hawk’s wing that cuts across our path. My God, the view we would miss.
When the disciples and Jesus left the mountain, they headed straight towards Jerusalem. Their hearts were so full, they were finally ready. I do not want to miss that mountaintop. I want us to keep going through all our valleys and all the meanderings and all the wanderings. I want us to head up there together. No excuses. Just to walk in love with all our hearts and minds and spirits grateful for all of our lives.
original image credit: pixabay.com