Epiphany 4, Year C 2022
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“We don’t see things clearly. We’re squinting in the fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as god sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.” (1 Corinthians 13:12- The Message)
Sewanee, Tennessee is KNOWN for its fog. Seriously, it’s a thing. I am not talking about a college stupor, I am talking about literal fog. My husband, Rob, even has a t-shirt, “Sewanee FOG.” The fog gets so thick in Sewanee that buildings literally disappear. Cars can’t be seen. Downhills surprise you. As a cross country runner in college, I actually enjoyed running in the fog because you could not see the incline in front of you, you just felt the incline in your bones with each step as you decreased in speed no matter how much effort you put forth.
In Sewanee, I learned that using your high beams are ineffective in fog. Rather, to navigate the fog, you simply have to slow down, take your time and watch carefully for dogs, people, and other cars on the street.
When the fog settles in and long-distance vision is dimmed, we often find that we can’t see things clearly…….. and we have to wait.
AND, due to the winds and the elevation, the same reasons the fog forms, the fog lifts. Having seen the blue skies before, we know that the blue skies will return and vision will be clear again, IF we have patience and take our time.
St. Paul, in all of his letters to the church in Corinth, is writing words of encouragement, words of hope, words of now might not make sense but be intentional, slow down, and have patience.
Vision might be limited right now and yet we know that the abundant vision is coming. Paul reminds us that our waiting is in love. His words of encouragement invite the listener to listen deeply to what love looks like, love is so much more than an emotion.
In words that we have heard at many a wedding, Paul speaks to a community that has just been reminded that each person is important to the family. Each voice is vital to the discussion, and we all have been given gifts. In this portion of his letter, Paul is speaking bluntly that love accepts all, loves all, and the love he is talking about looks to abundance not the scarcity.
Where might you need to see more of this sort of love in your lives?
Where might the fog be too thick to see the way, where you might not know how to love or even to be loved in a community?
In The Message translation of the bible this portion of scripture is read this way:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head.
Doesn’t force itself on others
Isn’t always me first
Doesn’t fly off the handle
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth
Put up with ANYTHING
Trusts god always
Always looks for the best
Never looks back but keeps going to the end.
I wonder if you were to finish this sentence, how would you do it?
For me, Love looks up.
Love sees the other.
Love is being reminded of the abundance that God has created even when we can only seem to grasp scarcity.
Think about it. When Abraham is wondering about the “where” and the “when” of God’s promise. God says, “Look up, see the stars!” See the abundance that awaits you.
When Hagar feels abandoned and isolated and cast out, God says look up, here I am, you and your son are still beloved. I hear you, I am here with you. Look up, see me.
When the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness, God says look up to the heavens for manna, I will provide you what you need daily. Look up to see the cloud of smoke during the day and pillar of fire by night, I will lead you.
Look up and be encouraged, while you might be only able to see a little bit now, looking up puts our trust in God, looks for the best, and never looks back, keeping going to the end.
This past week, I had a moment to pause and look up. I was invited to say the invocation at the county commission meeting. After a brief introduction, I said my prayer and then sat amongst the meeting to listen to the proclamations.
To listen to those who looked up.
The first proclamation was for an individual who rushed to rescue a man who had just had a car accident. Looking up and seeing the distress, this individual ran to assist the stranger risking his own life and in turn saving another.
The second proclamation recognized the directors of Honor Flight, the program that honors veterans and takes them to Washington DC for the day, showing them the national monuments, built in honor of their service. A program recognizing a part of veterans’ stories that not many understand, a pain and a challenge that no one should have to go through and these monuments draw your eyes upward, to the heavens for hope and strength to not repeat our mistakes, to prevent war and NEVER AGAIN.
The third proclamation was in celebration of the FSU Women’s Soccer team. The entire team was there to be recognized for their achievement this past year, through challenges of covid, of a summer defeat, they kept looking up and won the championship in December. This remarkable team of women stood shoulder to shoulder as their accolades of not just sportsmanship but academic prowess were shared. And they too spoke of the gift of their own heroes and who they looked up to in order to succeed.
Each proclamation showed a community of love, of acceptance, of those who might be overlooked who see the light of love shared and are an example for others.
The final words in Paul’s writing today says, “trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”
This extravagant love is the love that Jesus has shared with us. In Nazareth, Jesus shared the good news of who he was and he was rejected for such radical words. Not only rejected but they wanted to kill him.
Talk about foggy and dark days! And yet in the midst of the fog of Nazareth, Jesus looks up and beyond. He walks through the crowd and continues to teach, he continues his mission. Jesus loves extravagantly and trusts steadily in God, never abandoning the love he has for all of God’s people. He takes his time, intentionally, and continues forward.
The fog lifts. The path becomes clear to him, to those who followed him. A path that walked through the fog of rejection, of pain, of betrayal. And through all of these there is love. A love that only God can share through becoming fully human. An extravagant, ridiculous love uneconomically inefficient, lavish love for you and for me. Real and true love.
Love is All around us. (to quote the movie Love Actually)
I wonder when you look up where the manifestation of God’s love makes itself real to you.
I wonder how you might proclaim that love even in the midst of your own fog of depression, isolation, disappointment, or fear.
I wonder if God might be calling you to look up and hope unswervingly.
Rest assured, the fog will lift, it always does.
And God is there with you until it does.