The Rev’d Rachel Field
Christ Church, New Haven, Conn.
The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
February 24, 2019
“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,
nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 15:50
In one of my all time favorite books, The Last Unicorn, the mythical protagonist goes searching to find the other unicorns after learning that they were driven to the ocean by a great red bull. As she leaves her forest for the first time, she passes a local farm. To her surprise the farmer starts trying to catch her with a spare bit of rope – and calls her “Bessie.”
She has been mistaken for a white horse.
So she asks to herself, “If men no longer know what they are looking at, I wonder what it is they see when they look at each other.”
Later on in the book one of her companions, a failed magician, makes a similar remark. He says, “It is a rare man who is taken for what he truly is.”
This theme of seeing comes up again and again.
When you look at your spouse, or your children, or your closest friend, what do you see – memories? Wrinkles that weren’t there before?
When you look around this church at the people in the pews what do you see? BBQ’s? Acolytes, readers, someone who visited you when you were in the hospital?
When you walk around New Haven what do you see? Yale-ies on their phones? Businesspeople looking down? Men and women asking for money?
CS Lewis said “Next to the blessed sacrament, your neighbor is the holiest thing you will see.”
The person that you see next to you is luminous: the holiest thing that you can encounter, apart from the sacrament, is your neighbor.
That sculpture of dust is being grown, tended, and pulled into “the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor 15:49).
The barriers which we in our modern sensibility have created to separate the divine from our daily experience are simply that, figments of our imagination.
It is a rare person who is taken for what they truly are.
Every day we walk among sacredness beyond our wildest imagining. We meet Christ, again and again, we are buffeted by the powers of the Evil One, we are from earth, bearing the fingerprints of God in our clay, and we are being changed, to become bearers of the image of heaven.
How do we move through the world? If we listen to Paul’s words, and seriously believe that what is sown in a physical body is raised in glory, then I do believe that we might operate in this world as Jesus commands in Luke 6. It does not seem to me that we can begin to fully grasp this Way of Love that Jesus talks about without considering the implications of this knowledge of ourselves as both creatures of dust and creatures of heaven as Paul says in Corinthians.
Without this understanding, we can move through the world doing nice things, and having nice feelings, and generally being nice people. And we will have missed the point entirely.
But because we are “both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies” as Paul describes, we must move through the world with an awareness that what we do--or what we choose not to do--we are doing or not doing to creatures of infinity--as creatures of either glory as great as the Angels in their splendor, or as sinister as the devils in their malice.
What we can no longer do is pretend that ordinary things, and ordinary people are of little consequence.
This means that we cannot have the politeness of a moderate Christianity, we do not have the luxury of being a little bit Christian, or only Christian between 9 and noon on Sundays.
It means we love those who hate us, bless those who curse, pray for those who abuse, offer to those who would take, give to every person who begs from you – every moment of every day.
At this point the preacher invited the congregants to stand and turn to someone beside them and say to one another, “You are God’s beloved, and I love you.” After this exercise, she continued:
It. is hard to be faced with the intimacy that comes with the glory of the Divine. And I do believe that is exactly what has just taken place in this space. By taking a moment to truly look at those around us, we have participated in a moment of the breaking in of the spirit – pulled back a corner of the matter that appears “ordinary” to reveal the luminous.
It also could’ve just been an awkward moment. Let’s be honest. And I think that’s okay too.
Because this practice, and it is a practice, of learning to see clearly, is not one that comes easily or naturally to us.
I know for myself, as much as I would love to believe otherwise, I would be chasing a white horse with a belt loop – not composing ballads to a unicorn.
It is uncomfortable, awkward, and excruciating to recognize that the world around us is dripping with the glory of the infinite Divine. We cannot yet contain it. But we can be assured that God is working in us, through our discomfort, through our restlessness, through our neighbors, God is working in us to fashion us each into vessels strong enough to hold all of God’s glory.
God is sowing seeds of resurrection in every corner of creation, and we will all become truly living beings.