Thursday, January 2, 2014

"Dots and Dashes" - A sermon for Christmas I by the Rev. Dr. John Kilgore

A sermon preached by the Rev. Canon John Kilgore at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, December 29, 2013

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’

I love to think about that…in the beginning… Imagine that time, in the beginning. There was nothing, only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit sitting around. In eternity. Time before, time after. Space. A formless void. Nothingness. Or everythingness. No earth, no sun, no stars, no planets. And it may well be that way at the end as well. Eternity.

In the beginning. It is something so big we cannot wrap our arms around it. Our minds cannot fathom it! We just can’t take it in, cannot comprehend. In the beginning. Maybe, just maybe we can imagine a little tiny piece of it. A dot or a dash. We know such a small piece of it. Perhaps God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit were sitting around, you know the Trinity really is community. The gospel today tells us that, the Word was with God and the Word was God. One in the same yet all different. The Trinity. So God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Whatever terms you want to use to talk about, to describe the Trinity, they were all sitting around and perhaps said, ‘Let’s create an earth. Let’s create a sun and planets and stars. Let’s create the earth, inhabitable, with mountains and valleys and streams and dry land and oceans. Let us [as it says in Psalm 147 we read today] count the number of the stars and call them by their names…cover the heavens with clouds and prepare rain for the earth…make grass to grow upon the mountains and green plants to serve mankind…provide food for the flocks and herds and for the young ravens when they cry…give snow like wool and scatter hoarfrost like ashes…scatter hail like bread crumbs…blow with the wind and make waters flow. Yes, let us make an abundant earth and wonderful beings in our own image.’

But then there may have been a dialogue, or a trialogue; some form of discussion among the members of the Trinity. Maybe it went like this:

Son - Well, we have just created the earth and humankind in our own image and given them reason and intellect above the creatures. What if they don’t get it? What if they don’t understand us? What if their humanity and free will become a problem?

Holy Spirit - Well, that’s when we infuse our godliness into them and remind them of their being created in our own image.

God - They might not get it. But let’s give it a try. Nothing we create is imperfect. Just awaiting in its fulfillment, in its perfection.

Several millennia later.
Son - I told you they wouldn’t get it. We tried a flood, forty years in the wilderness, burning bushes, time in the belly of whales, falling walls in Jericho, plagues and frogs, Kings and Prophets. They’re not getting it…

Holy Spirit - Perhaps they need more of us. More spirit infused in them. More of our essence among them.

God - They have that they just don’t recognize it.

Son - Maybe we don’t understand them well enough…

God - Son, I’ve got a job for you. And we are all in this together. You are going to make words like The Incarnation, Emmanuel, Son of Man, Prince of Peace real to them, and them real to us. Pack your bags, Son, you are going on a trip!

Two millennia later.
Son - What do you think? Did they get it? Do they understand?

God - Maybe. Better. The lessons you taught of caring for all, the worldly standards as they know them are not as we know them, the first shall be last, and all that were good for them. Holy Spirit, what do you think?

Holy Spirit - I sense our presence among them. It seems better. And perhaps we understand them better.

Son - You know the problem is that they are too close to the ground, among the trees and don’t have the perspective to see the forest as we do way up here in the clouds. Though we really aren’t in the clouds, they just think like that.

God - Well, Son, you do have a perspective, having been there among them. Other thoughts?

Son - Well, as a matter of fact. Think about this. They have these things on earth called newspapers. Well they used to; they are pretty much going out of style now but they do still exist. And in the back of them are what they call funny papers. Drawings and cartoons in color. They are in panels and they tell a story, often humorous. But if you get down really close and look at them they are just a bunch of dots of different colors and make no sense. It is only when you back up enough, get far enough away, and have enough perspective that you see the figures and the pictures and the story line. And there are also artists that paint like that, they call them pointillists. They paint with just a bunch of dots. Thousands of them. The paintings don’t look like much until you back up and get away from them a bit. You know, having been there among them, it is fairly clear that they get bogged down in the details, in the day to day. Too close to the dots. They have difficulty taking time to back up and see the big picture. They are very immediate.

Holy Spirit - Hmmmm. So how can we get them to understand better?

Son - They have to be alert and paying attention. And work to get our perspective.

God - Not only that, they need to know us better, listen and pay attention.

One of my spiritual mentors told me years ago that God doesn't work right in front of us. God doesn't work in our direct vision but rather in our peripheral vision. A headline in a newspaper. A conversation mentioned to us. A passing encounter. We have to be looking at the whole big picture and be paying attention to see God's hand at work.

Story from the days of steamships and telegraphs. Before there was radio or cell phones or the internet.

Waiting in a steamship office to be interviewed for a job as a wireless operator, a group of applicants filled the room with such a buzz of conversation that they were oblivious to the dots and dashes, the Morse code, that began coming over a loudspeaker.

About that time another man entered and sat down quietly by himself. Suddenly he snapped to attention, walked into the private office, and a few minutes later came out smiling with a new job.

“Say,” one of the group called out, “how did you get in ahead of us? We were here first?”

“One of you would have gotten the job,” the successful applicant replied, “if you had listened to the message from the loudspeaker.”

“What message?” they asked in surprise.

“Why the code,” the man answered. “It said: ‘The man I need must always be on the alert. The first one who gets this message and comes directly into my private office will be placed on one of my ships as operator.’”

Dots on paper. Dots and dashes of sound. Dots and dashes only make sense if one is alert, paying attention, and puts them in perspective. Such is life. And such are our lives of faith.


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