February 15th, 2015
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
The Rev. Rob Fisher
St. Dunstan’s, Carmel Valley
Texts: Mark 9:2-9
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, and we get reminders of that everywhere we look.
We see the word “love” all over the place.
We all think we know what this word means, but I sometimes wonder if we do.
There’s a scene in the movie Annie Hall when Diane Keaton’s character asks Woody Allen’s character if he loves her. He knows what the wrong answer would be—but he can’t quite bring himself to say “yes,” either. So he says something like this:
“What I feel for you is much deeper than love. It’s really more profound, and the word ‘love’ doesn’t do it justice. I loave you. I lerve you.”
I think that actual love in its fullest sense has to do with a way of seeing.
Martin Buber opened my eyes to this. (He was the great mystical poet and Hassidic Jew who wrote the groundbreaking and mysterious book I and Thou.)
These are my words not his, but I think a way of describing his big point is that when you look upon another human with the eyes of love, you cease to see that person as a thing among things, or as a sum of things. Rather, the beauty of that other person fills your gaze, and in fact all else is in light of that person.
He describes it as a holy way of seeing.
To see someone else’s soul, and to know that that soul is precious in the eyes of God, is a glorious sight.
Love is not a commodity that you hold, but a way of being that you step into.
You become less centered on yourself, and instead you bask in the light of God’s glory revealed. And in it there is healing.
The scene that takes place this morning when Jesus is transfigured before his disciples is the ultimate epiphany experience. We get the account from the disciples vantage point, and to them they have their eyes opened to God’s glory.
Specifically, they see who Jesus is, as his true nature is revealed to them in this very dramatic way.
It seems interesting to me that Jesus carries this glory within him all the time, even in those other moments when the disciples don’t see it. But at this moment, they can finally behold reality, thanks to the grace of God.
It’s an epiphany.
The clouds part.
When you have an epiphany, you have the truth revealed.
Like with love, you see with more than just your eyes.
There is an Episcopal priest named Cynthia Bourgeault who has been writing books on what she calls the Wisdom tradition. Last year she came and spoke to the clergy of this diocese.
We throw the word “wisdom” around as if it means simply knowing more.
But according to her, wisdom does not mean merely to know more…
But to know, with more of you.
Cynthia Bourgeault spoke of living a life of faith with what she called “resurrection presence,” which is to be illuminated by the light of Christ.
The human part of us can know human things, and the seed of divinity planted within us can know divine things. We are spiritual beings, as well as worldly beings. Both sides pull at us, so we can discern the earthly or the heavenly or both if we choose.
As yesterday was Valentines Day, there are hearts all over the place.
But Cynthia Bourgeault says that the ancient view of what a heart does is a little different from ours today. Think of Ezekiel’s words, describing how God will give us new hearts to replace our hearts of stone.
The passionate feelings that we ascribe to the heart today were thought to be the function not of the heart but of a different organ. The organ of feeling was thought to be the liver.
Cynthia says, could you imagine someone saying “I love you so much, I give you my liver!”
The heart, however, was the organ not for passion and emotion, but for apatheia, which means to be free of passions. Not apathetic in a bad sense, but rather free and in a good sense. Not stuck. Not clinging. But centered and grounded. Apatheia is about release, letting go of childish things. Letting go of selfishness, or anything that gets in the way of the truth.
With hearts working properly, they will be our GPS systems—our “God positioning systems”! They will orient us.
And she said that Jesus’ true identity is to be a divine cardiologist, who came to repair our hearts.
Our hearts are God-shaped.
Our task is to take care of our hearts, and not be blown by this or that, so that instead we might simply stay grounded in God.
And with God-shaped hearts we can see God’s presence all around us, in the world and in others. This is the epiphany that changes our lives.
This is the gift of love.