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Instructions for living life

by davesandel on January 7th, 2021

Thursday, January 7, 2021                 (today’s lectionary)

Thursday after Epiphany

Instructions for living life

Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. And whoever loves God must also love his brother. In fact whoever is begotten by God conquers the world, and the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

I regularly forget that my nearly favorite essayist is also a poet. G. K. Chesterton could spin words into rhymes that excite my brain and warm my soul. And of course he turned his words toward Epiphany – Mr. Chesterton wrote about the joy of holidays of every kind, most especially those that brought our arms up and out toward God.

From his poem “The Wise Men”

 Step softly, under snow or rain to find the place where men can pray.

The way is all so very plain that we may lose the way.

Yes we lose the way. I am so thankful for epiphanies that bring me back. Ruth Haley Barton yesterday called epiphany “the manifestation of God in earthly form.” In his poem Chesterton recognized how often we mistake our own creations for that manifestation.

… We know all things but truth. We have gone round and round the hill and lost the wood among the trees.

We’ve learnt long names for every ill and serve the made gods, naming still.

The gods of violence took the veil of vision and philosophy,

The Serpent that brought all men bale, he bites his own accursed tail and calls himself Eternity.

A hundred years ago and now, Chesterton’s words slow me down, quiet my mind and, at last, stop me in my tracks. Turn back, O man. Go soft into that tender night. In her own epiphanal reflection, Ruth Barton remembers with Mary Oliver that instructions for living life are headlined by, “pay attention, be astonished. Tell about it.”

Go humbly, it has hailed and snowed, go with voices low and lanterns lit

So very simple is the road that we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white, and blinding white the breaking day,

We walk bewildered in the light, for something is too large for sight

And something much too plain to say.

We can imagine ourselves wise men hanging on their camels in the strange storms, losing the star and then finding it again, trying to protect against sleet and snow, going forward, moving on, to arrive at last.

The Child that played with sun and moon is playing with a little hay.

This house from which the heavens are fed, the old strange house that is our own,

Where trick of words are never said and mercy is as plain as bread

And honor is as hard as stone.

Either we humble ourselves or we are humbled, by circumstance, by the temporariness of our lives, or by God in his wisdom and love.

Go humbly, for humble are the skies and low and large and fierce the Star,

So very near the Manger lies that we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes to roar to the resounding plain,

And the whole heaven shouts and shakes, for God himself is born again

And we are little children walking, walking through the sun and rain.

Listen now children, listen to the words of Jesus. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it!

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.

(1 John 4, Psalm 72, Luke 4)

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One Comment
  1. Susan Jakoby permalink

    This was very beautiful. And just right for this day, which did not feel so “Epiphanous.”

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