Relevant Lectionary Texts
Grace and Peace are yours from the God of Wisdom and Light. Amen.
Revelations. Realizations. Epiphany. Like a light coming on in the darkness. God breaks into our lives in a way where suddenly everything is different. We can see. We know something now that we can’t un-know. Something that changes everything.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but in the past few months, since August9th, I have seen a lot of things that I can’t unsee. I know things now that I can’t unknow. I’m different, we’re different. Things are different. And you know, In some ways I’m thankful for the lessons that I’ve been learning but in other ways….this change is hard. It’s painful. And so other times, most other times, I find myself wishing that I could have at least seen it coming. So that I could get ready, store up some extra strength, prepare myself a little bit. But God doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t work in timelines and check lists and Google calendars. God loves to flip things, to turn things upside down. God works through the unexpected.
Lately in our region, over and over, I keep hearing a cry for some sort of miraculous leader or savior that is going to show us the way, and heal all of our wounds. We expect that person to show up. And if we are being honest, we expect them to be like us; to look like us, to think like us, to speak like us…. To set things right. And while I get that impulse…I do, because I feel it too…I’m always humbled to read through scripture and notice the tradition in which we are baptized into.
Because we are not baptized into a tradition that privileges the voices of clean cut, well spoken leaders with impressive resumes and pristine pasts. We are not baptized into a tradition where God works through the status quo. We are instead, baptized into a tradition that relies on the Wisdom ofWeirdos.
In Epiphany we commemorate the visit of the Magi. That Magi were outsiders, foreigners. They came from the East. They had their own traditions, their own religion, their own customs. And yet, they came. they came by the light of a distant star. They recognized God in a tiny child. And they were changed. And because of the way that their lives were changed, they could no longer keep the deal they had made with King Herod, and so instead of following the king’s orders, they directly ignore him, subverted his power, and went home a different way. These Magi… outsiders, these foreigners, pilgrims, aliens, immigrants, sojourners, weirdos…we rely on their wisdom.
And today when we hear about the Baptism of our Lord, we read of a man namedJohn who lived in the wildnerness. Who lived outside of social norms. Who ignored polite company and proper table manners. Instead of coffee hour and church pot lucks and lunch dates and dinner parties, he crunched and munched on bugs. Instead of priestly robes or tailored suits or J. Crew, instead of stylish, dry clean-only type garments, he clothed himself with camel’s hair. John the Baptist, who made straight the way for Jesus to come, looked more like one of the homeless men who sleep on the steps of the Cathedral than he looked like you or me. And yet, this smelly, wild eyed, “little bit off”, “not quite all there”guy living out in the desert…that is who God worked through. That’s how God chose to reveal God’s wisdom. Through the weirdo.
The only really surprising thing, honestly, about God revealing Godself through the Wisdom of Weirdos, is the fact that we are still surprised by it. We are still surprised by the fact that God does not show up in the manner and in the people of which we are accustomed. The only shocking thing, really, about the shocking people that God chooses, is that we still continue to be shocked. Because in the last few weeks we were just reminded that truest and purest version we have of God, the most tangible vision we have of theAlmighty, is of an infinite God who became mortal and human when he was born asa tiny, brown baby in an occupied land to a poor, unwed, teenage mother. And so then, why is it that when God is born, lying there in the manger surrounded by animals, visited by foreigners,and later baptized by a lunatic, why do we continue to look for God in anything but the most absurd and unexpected places?
That’s the revelation I keep having, that’s my most constant and most recentEpiphany. I’m learning that the more that I look for God in the places in which I think God should be, the moreI miss out on God. I’m learning that when we complain about the direction of the Church or the world, and we look for answers in the same old places, in the status quo, in the “way its always been done” we are MISSING the amazing things that God is already doing in the places and people we least expect it.
And try as we might, for as much as we talk about it, one of the places and the people that the Church is most ignoring is our youth. The Wisdom of God is coming through the voices of our youth. In a world where youth and children are told their voices don’t matter, that “they will understand one day” or that “we’ll tell them when they’re older” in a world where people dismiss youth, GOD IS SPEAKING THROUGH THEM. And so the Church had better get on board or else risk missing out on the new, wild, weird things that God is doing.
Most of my job, as the Diocesan Youth Missioner, is not about “LeadingYouth.” My resume is decent, and I look pretty good on paper. I’ve been told I clean up nice. But my job as “Youth Missioner” is not to lead. My job is to create opportunities for YOUTH to lead the Church, forYOUTH to have a voice, for YOUTH to make the difference. I create the space, and then I get OUT OF THE WAY. Because even though the Church oftentimes refuses to accept it, the leadership of our youth is a place where we find wisdom. That is the place that I see God at work. And so honestly, I have spoken far too much already. I’m going to read to you now, some of the prayers and thoughts of our youth, from the diocese ofMissouri. These prayers were written by Jr High and High Schoolers just this weekend with no direction from me but some paper and pens:
“God you are so beautiful and holy. You are with me in my darkest hours. Thank you for our community. Thank you for the opportunities we give to children. We pray for people in authority to make wise choices, to effect the world in a positive way, to stop racial tension in St. Louis. We pray for those suffering from Ebola,for those with cancer. We pray forParis. We pray for those struggling to find their way in the world, for those who are bullied, for those feeling that they don’t belong. We pray for an end to discrimination, for Muslims, for #LeelahAlcorn, for MikeBrown. We pray for people who need our help and love. For people in poverty. For people whose families won’t accept them. For those who suffer from mental illness or thoughts of suicide. Thank you God for the privileges that we take for granted, for the meal we know we’ll have, for the roof over our heads Thank you for our diversity. Thank you for friends who never leave our sides. Thank you, God, for Love.”
These are some of the beautiful, wise things coming out of the mouths of the youth in our churches. And this is just a small sampling. There is so, so much more. On your table, I will leave with you copies of a statement drafted by our Diocesan Youth Advisory Council, which is a council of 9 youth from around our diocese whose job it is to advise us on issues pertaining to youth and youth ministry. I encourage you to read their statement in full. I’m confident that you’ll find that our youth are more than competent to lead. Furthermore, I encourage you all to continue on in the great work that you are already doing to engage the youth in your neighborhoods and in our diocese as you envision what is next for our church and our communities.
May you be blessed as you see them carry on in the tradition in which we were all baptized: a tradition that relies on the Wisdom of Weirdos.