“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see it takes time- like to have a friend takes time.” Georgia O’Keefee
“Venerating the Periphery” – Sermon by Rev. Brian Combs 8/13/2014
Exodus 3:1-5 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
How do we find our own burning bush?
Stop and turn to the side
Trust that, no matter your faults and foibles, God is calling you
Seek out the nowhere places like Horeb
Listen for God calling your name twice
Stop herding sheep and covering our tracks like Moses and forsake our routine
We find our burning bushes by venerating the periphery. Staring not at the distraction in front of us but glancing at the revelation beside us. By believing that the uninterrupted life is the life not yet sparked by the holy, that taking the detour is often the most direct route to God, that the spiritual life often begins “where the sidewalk ends” Shel Silverstein. By reading the world, like Saint Francis, as a Bible, a blurred cannon of secular and sacred, a living document not to be turned page-by-page in the study but beheld under the Tulip Poplar.
Fredrick Buechner says, “…every once in a while a word in even the most unpromising sermon will flame out, some scrape of prayer or anthem, some moment of silence even, the sudden glimpse of someone you love sitting there near you, or of some stranger whose face without warning touches your heart, and these are the moments that speak our names in a way we cannot help hearing.”
Over the years, Haywood Street has taken to the hills, taken church on the Wilderness Trail. A weekend of backpacking, of fellowship among homeless and housed. After the long miles logged, the unshouldered pack, the pitched tent and the day done, we gather around the stoked fire to give voice to the holy ground we each encountered, the witnessed burning bushes:
Summer sausage and mac-n-cheese for dinner; Pop Tarts and pudding cups for desert. Carrying each other’s burdens through blister holler and around cigarette knob. The choice to hike at my own pace in a world that harasses my movements. To camp peacefully without the threat of trespassing. To be finally called child of God.
This is the holy ground practice that we’re all called to, the discipline of paying attention to the epiphanies of everyday. Or as Henry David Thoreau says, “Pursue some path, however narrow or crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”