Saturday, January 18, 2014

Take Notice

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

Saturday Morning
Psalm 139:1-5; Mark 2:13-17

It was late in the afternoon, and cold, and I was tired, when I left St. Dominic's hospital last Monday. I was in a hurry to get back to my car.  At the first blast of icy air, I pulled my scarf closer around my neck, buried my hands in my pockets, and turned my head down against the wind.  I knew I was passing other people, but I just didn't have the energy to look up and smile, instead channeling my New York City survival skills from when I went to seminary.  And I had almost made it to the sidewalk that led to clergy parking, just past an evergreen tree still filled with white Christmas lights glowing in memory of loved ones lost.

As I passed by the tree, a bird was chirping, and I thought nothing of it at first, fumbling for my keys in my coat pockets.  But then a fluttering movement startled me, and I looked up.  There I was, eye to eye with a bird in the evergreen, so near I could see the reprimand in his eyes and hear it in his chirps: Notice me!

Notice me!  How often do we rush through our days, or move through them with our heads down against the rush of life, intent on just getting to where we want to be next, and we fail to notice the holiness right in front of us, all around us?  Sometimes it's so big or loud or visible that we cannot help but notice we are in the presence of something sacred - a sunset smeared across the sky, the trumpets of a pipe organ, the presence or prayers of a friend at exactly the moment we needed them.  Most of the time, though, holiness is bird-sized, or smaller even, and it is hard to see when our thoughts are filled with louder, bigger, more pressing things.

We're offered an epiphany when we hear the story of Jesus walking along the lake and noticing the people there - what they are doing, who they are.  Jesus notices Levi, and right then and there, in the midst of Levi's bigger and louder and more pressing - things, Jesus calls him.  Jesus noticed Levi, crowded as Levi was with doubt and loneliness and deceit, a Jewish tax collector for the Roman government.  Jesus noticed him, and so it was a holy place.  Holiness does not mean perfect - it means being loved and chosen by God.

Jesus noticed everyone gathered around Levi's table later that day.  Everyday, ordinary people, sinners, imperfect people, hurting people...we could have been at that table, too.  Jesus noticed them and loved them and claimed them for God.  He had come precisely for them, to make them holy.

God in Christ noticed us, and taught us to notice holiness in ourselves and in others, to see holiness where we might not have ever seen it before, so blinded are we by our busyness and burdens.  Contemplative writer Esther de Waal suggests we take a magnifying glass with us everywhere we go, for holiness can be even smaller than bird-sized.  She remembers being astonished by the beauty of a daisy, and then even more astonished when she knelt to the ground and looked at it up close.

We practice noticing holiness in the common things of life - most of them bird-sized or smaller - right here at our retreat.  Sure, we marvel over expansive quilt tops and exquisite beaded scarves and sweeping shawls.  But remember my friend Rita, the giggling knitter?  It was the stitches that made her laugh, that filled her with wonder and delight.  Simple, little knit stitches.

Look at your work.  Look at the seams, the edges, the undersides (these were Jesus' favorite places to look, after all).  Look at the twist of the yarn, the weave of the fabric, the way colors play off of one another.  Look at someone you don't know well, and the care that they take with their work, or the kindness they show, or the pain that they carry.  Notice...

If we have lost sight of holiness, lost sight of wonder, we can look all around us here and begin to see again - not just to see but to notice, and to discover holiness in every small thing.  Brother David Steindahl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, wrote, "The more alert we become to the blessing that flows into us from everything we touch, the more our own touch will bring blessing."  So it is with holiness, with wonder, with giggle-inducing mystery - the more we notice it, the more it is noticeable in us.

Notice me, God whispers in the holy things and holy people all around us.  What will we see today?  Amen.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

"Notice me." I was happy to find this blog today. In this age of digital devices, it is even easier to keep the eyes down and to not see what and who is around us. "Notice me." I hope to be more aware and "notice" with intention now.