Friday, January 17, 2014

Getting Here

The first of seven homilies preached at the 2014 Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Conference in Hendersonville, NC.

Friday Morning
Psalm 19:1-4; Mark 2:1-12

How did we get here?!

The last few days, for me anyway, are a blur.  I preached on Sunday, but it seems so long ago I can't remember a word of what I said.  I made hospital visits, went to nursing homes, met with parishioners, attended staff meetings.  There was laundry, and grocery shopping, and bill paying, and science fair project supervising.

How did we get from all our demands and deadlines, our to-do lists, the drudgery that fills our day-to-day here, to Kanuga, where the only thing that's demanded of us is that we be on retreat?  Where our only deadlines are the bugle calls that summon us to meals?  Where the only things on our to-do lists are knitting, quilting, massages, hikes, prayer, wine, or, if we choose, nothing?  Where our only drudgery...well, our meals are cooked for us, our dishes are washed, our beds are made...I've been weaving in countless ends in my knitting, but here even that seems like fun.

How did we get here, from our daily, ordinary lives to this once-a-year place of uncommon beauty, of uncommon peace, this place so far removed from our everyday experience, this place where we know God dwells?   The closer we get to a time of retreat, whether it's our lunch break or a day off or the weekend, or getting away together in the mountains...the closer we get, the further away it can feel, crowded out by ordinary life so that we have to dig down through all our stuff just to get out the front door.

Here we are, though.  How did we get here?  I got here with the help of friends.  We helped each other get here, in fact, strategically loading up four knitters' worth of luggage and yarn into our car, driving all those hours from Mississippi to North Carolina.  And before that, my colleagues helped me clear space in my work calendar at the Cathedral, taking on some tasks that are ordinarily mine.  And my family told me to go, my husband and my son, certainly because they know how much this weekend means to me but also, I think, because with me out of the picture they get to eat pizza and watch Tron all weekend.

Here we are, then.  We have all arrived, and indeed, we are on retreat.  This is a holy, hallowed, set apart place and time.  In the Church, of course, this time is set apart as the season of Epiphany, of the world coming to see God not in extraordinary experiences of burning bushes and angel choirs but in the person of Jesus Christ, walking around in people's ordinary, everyday lives and revealing in them remarkable things.

The gospel readings in this season tell stories like the one we hear this morning.  Someone who is paralyzed, perhaps by illness, or maybe for us it's work or worry or fears or grief or anxiety or whatever keeps us so busy or so weary or so worn down that we can barely move...someone who is paralyzed meets Jesus, not in heaven or at church but in the manger, on the road, by the sea, in a house, in the midst of common life, and there, in the middle of it all, of the drudgery and the day-to-day, he invites them to move again with purpose and peace and joy.

Here's what I think.  The paralytic's friends were so determined that he be free from what kept him from living fully, to uncrowd him from what paralyzed and pained him and pushed him to the edges of life, that they lowered him into the center of where Jesus was, where Jesus was already at home.  Epiphany is precisely about that center, that place where God dwells, about Christ's home being here. Not just here at Kanuga, not just anywhere we go on retreat, but here in this world, in the midst of our days crowded with people or obligations or sorrow or illness or work or whatever binds us, paralyzes us, pains us.

Christ dug through all of that to meet us where we are, at our center, to make his home in the same places where we are busy, where we are weary, where we are distracted, where we are hurting.  I don't mean that a time of retreat, and certainly a place like Kanuga, isn't holy - of course it is.  It's just that, everything and everywhere else is, too.  "There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred," wrote Madeleine L'Engle, who deeply loved Kanuga.  "There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the greatest messages of the Incarnation."

Christ came to hallow not the places that were already holy - temples and churches and retreat centers - but the places that didn't seem to be, to make the common holy, to make our everyday lives holy.  "Christ be with me, Christ within me," sings St. Patrick's Breastplate, that great Celtic hymn, and indeed the house where Jesus dwells is right here, in our hearts.  He is that close.  That near.  That common.

However we got here, may we, in the presence of so many faithful friends, see Christ in the beauty of this place of retreat, in the luxury of time, and in the absence of drudgery.  May we also begin to see, because as knitters and quilters and their companions we know something about how fabric is made, how the smallest stitches become something large enough to enfold...may we also begin to see that the thread that binds this time and place to the places we left, and the places we are going to when we leave here, is Christ's loving and redeeming and patient and healing presence in it all, Christ's presence in the home of our hearts.  Together, helping one another, let us dig down through all that crowds out our peace and our hope and our joy, and here let us begin to move again.  Amen.

No comments: