Our new interim pastor was out of town because of a death in the family – alas! – so we had a visiting preacher who reminded us of a quotation by Edith Wharton:
There are two ways of spreading light: to be
The candle or the mirror that reflects it.
[The quote is from a long poem, “Vasalius in Zante,” about a late medieval anatomist.]
Epiphany is a season of light-bearing and light-appearing, she said. We can be part of that, by reaching out to one another, sharing friendship, extending hospitality, and treating people like face-to-face, rather than “facebook,” friends.
The magi didn’t phone in their devotion, write a book about the infant messiah, send a congratulatory card. They came in person. Being there in person is what creates the conditions for the epiphany: the striking appearance of something remarkable.
We shared stories of our “spiritual journeys” in the class after worship, for the benefit of the newest members, albeit a few months late. [“It’s traditional that we go over our spiritual journeys for new people.” “Did we do that for the M’s?” “No …”]
(In this context I always point out that I don’t fit in well, because I don’t like the language of “spirituality,” and I don’t like to talk about my “journey,” either. I like the people in that group, anyway, and they put up with me, too, so the vocabulary doesn’t matter as much as one might think.)
When we listen to one another’s stories one after another like that, one thing becomes clear: people need other people to treat them like human beings. A church that can manage to be full of humans, who treat one another as humans – being there, showing up with casseroles, listening, caring about what people are going through, reaching out and letting people know you miss them – a church where people care about each other – that’s what people are looking for.
Whether they know it or not.