December 30, 2012


Sunset on Iowa Highway
Sunset on Iowa Highway
by Torey Lightcap

Sermon for Year C, First Sunday After Christmas
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
December 30, 2012
St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.
Alleluia, Amen!
Unto us a Son, Jesus the Christ, is given.
Let us worship him in spirit and in truth;
  Come, let us adore him.

For the past week or so, I have been possessed and enveloped by a certain peace.
It started when I did something kind for myself.
It’s a real peace; a deep, lasting peace that extends itself beyond me.
It’s a warmth, an energy that radiates from my center
  And goes out into the world.
It has made me want to be kinder and less rushed with people and animals.
It has caused me to look at the snow falling
  And to see it as beauty and a gift from the natural world,
    And not as some hassle to be negotiated and scooped away.
It has made me more patient
  And more authentically happy
  And better able to listen.
It has spoken to me in moments of conflict,
  Calming me, cooling me.
It has slowed me down,
  Allowed me to really watch things happening,
    Rather than constantly feel as though I have to make things happen …

It’s often said, and of course to a degree it’s true, that we are what we do.
That what we spend time doing and thinking about
  Has a radical impact upon us.
It’s also true, that beyond what we do there is something else,
  A much more vast, a much more real Something Else.
How to say this?
  … Something beautiful, something true, something good.
Something that feels permanent and divine, even if our bodies aren’t permanent,
  Even if feelings and people are merely temporary.
It’s something we can only glimpse, you might say, from the side.
It’s hard to catch, tough to see, impossible to define.
Maybe easier if we just stop trying and simply engage it and let it be.

Whatever name this Something Else goes by, sometimes we call it the Soul.

Maybe that’s what I’ve been in such contact with lately,
  In a clear and concrete way: my soul. The God-Spark within.
Jesus Christ finding a home in which to be born on Christmas.
Meeting him there.
There’s nothing for it but gratitude.
No gift I could ever give would be sufficient,
  Except my own beautiful brokenness.
So I just say Thank You to God, and mean it from the very bottom.

Grateful for material warmth and possessions; for food, good work, a home,
  And more deeply than that for my little family,
  And in some fundamental way for my own existence.
My soul, or whatever you want to call it, does not exist in isolation;
  It lives in relation to other souls and to God.

Recently with my son Gabriel I have been finishing up the Harry Potter series of books.
Harry is a plucky, soulful boy who’s forced to live his life to the absolute fullest.
“Forced,” because his whole life has been appointed for him to achieve one task,
  One task only.
It’s this:
  He has to stop an evil person named Voldemort.
Voldemort used to be a curious boy named Tom Riddle,
  But he discovered that he possessed a power that he could use over others,
  To manipulate others, to get what he wants.
And what he wants, more than anything else, is to go on living forever.
In other words, he’s afraid of death.
So Tom – poor, fearful Tom – finds a way to actually split up his soul into fragments,
  Because he thinks that if his soul doesn’t die, neither will he.
And he puts all those fragments into various objects,
  And he hides them in secret places and sets traps for those who would seek them.
And he thinks no one knows about his plans to go on living forever.

Poor Tom. Poor, sad, fearful, split-soul’d Tom …
I can’t imagine anything more damaging or dark
  Than to take the thing about oneself that is essentially good, true, beautiful, permanent,
    … And to tear it into shreds as Tom does.
It does not want to make you run and hide so much as to sit still, and to weep.
Such violence he does to himself and the world.

The message of God at Christmas time
  Must surely be something like this:
  I love you, God says – I love you too much to allow you to destroy yourselves;
    I love you too much to let you choose to live fragmented lives
      Of dissatisfaction and pain and fear.
I want you to be whole and sound,
  And I want you to know how good you are underneath the jumble and pain of life.
I want you to  feel rooted and safe.
I want you to know how embraced you are;
  I want your soul to be ablaze with warmth and divine communion.
And I want you to share your soul with others, to not let your soul be so easily frightened.
Have the bravery, God says, to listen to this, and to do it.

You know, we live in an uncertain time.
The days are cynical and seem short; things feel temporary.
To many, the past looks like a good place to run and hide.
Some behave as though the end of the world were near,
  As though all our better days are officially behind us.
We search high and low for scapegoats to blame for the way things are,
  And there, all across the spectrum of society and politics and culture,
  We find all the usual suspects.

Some churches, too, have withdrawn their souls from life and society
  Because they don’t know how to speak to any of this;
    It’s new and weird.
So they, too, live in fear and fragmentation and isolation;
    They’re captive to the talk of falling apart;
      They don’t know what they would do if they ceased to be important.
They talk as though the world has moved past them;
  They vainly hope for quick solutions to complicated problems.
Certainly the winter is dark.

Even so, a little child shall lead us.
And this boy gives us all the cause we need to hope in the face of desperation.
A nestling, suckling baby totally dependent upon his mother for his life;
  His stable-manger is a throne.
In the birth of Jesus, the message to us and to all is clear:
  Be at peace. Your soul is in the loving power of the Almighty.
This has never changed and never will.
The warm grace of the Most High has overshadowed you.
You are safe. You are connected. You are worthy.
The part of you that you most want to protect cannot be harmed.
You are saved and secure,
  Set aside and consecrated for a purpose.
Your life has holy purpose.

I know you have probably heard these words – this blessing, this wish – a thousand times,
  But listen again, one more time, from that place of soul within:
  May the peace of God, which passes understanding,
    Guard our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God.

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