Expanding Our Aperture

This past Sunday, I shared a quote from a book my son Wallace had asked me to read in my sermon. The book, by Patrick Rothfuss, is The Name of the Wind, and the full quote is:

You meet a girl: shy, unassuming. If you tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll think you’re sweet, but she won’t believe you. She knows that beauty lies in your beholding.” Bast gave a grudging shrug. “And sometimes that’s enough.”
His eyes brightened. “But there’s a better way. You 
show her she is beautiful. You make mirrors of your eyes, prayers of your hands against her body. It is hard, very hard, but when she truly believes you…” Bast gestured excitedly. “Suddenly the story she tells herself in her own head changes. She transforms. She isn’t seen as beautiful. She is beautiful, seen.”

Jesus came to be our mirror, to help us see for ourselves—and in turn others, including God—as we truly are, to change the story we tell about ourselves: to effect transformation. The Word, the second person of the Trinity, the Cosmic Christ was in the beginning and all things came into being through him. In the fullness of time, he became human, in Jesus, to live and die as one of us, to show us who we really are—to change our story.

All too often we don’t allow this truth to change the story we tell about ourselves. We think God is sweet, but we aren’t transformed. In fact we have largely convinced ourselves that the incarnation is reserved for Jesus, that he is special, holy, and far, far from us. But the early church, knew that the Word was fully present within each of them as well. In fact, upon exciting the waters of baptism, the community would call out “Willa a Christ!” and “Calvin a Christ!” God is passionate about finding ways to help us see for ourselves that we are fully human, fully divine…manifesting in our very lives the incarnation—you a Christ!  Beloved, seen.

14th century mystic Meister Eckart invites us to imagine the way we see is through an aperture that can expand or contract. The smaller the aperture—the less we can see of others, ourselves, of God. Jesus shows us how we are to live, truly live, which is with the aperture fully open—fully human and also fully divine. In his baptism, the heavens open and the voice says this is my son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased. And we are invited to step into this reality in our baptism, to know ourselves to be beloved, seen. The truth is already present within, Meister Eckart encourages us, all it takes is a little subtraction, letting go of the limiting stories we tell ourselves.

Every once in a while, we glimpse this reality—our aperture is fully open and we say yes to the flow of life, of love and we let go of the limiting story for a moment. Those glimpses are gifts that we cannot control, attain or force. But we can have eyes to see and cherish them, and allow them to begin transforming the story we tell ourselves inside our heads. And we can engage in practices that help us see more clearly who we truly are. Not only are we beloved—we are given as a covenant, a light to the nations.

So what does all this have to do with Giving Season, with our theme, Living From the Heart? The more our aperture is wide open, the more energy we allow to flow through us, the more we allow this story of incarnation, of being beloved, to be our story, we cannot help but know it to be true, and radiate that truth in the world around us: a light to the nations.

A few years ago, our view of ourselves as a parish was small, fearful, focused on not being, not having enough. Over the years, we’ve done some important work listening deeply to this truth of incarnation, that we are beloved, seen. The difference is palpable and real. And we’ll continue to follow Jesus on this path of transformation as a parish. And, I hope, as individuals. One tangible spiritual practice that can help us see our selves as we truly are, a Christ, is to give more than we think we are able to give to that which matters to us. By stretching our giving, we are claiming that we rest in God. By stretching our aperture a little bit more, the holy flow lifts and sustains us.

You will soon be receiving your Living from the Heart giving materials in the mail and throughout the month we’ll have parishioners sharing what living from the heart means to them. On Tuesday, we included part of parishioner John Stomper’s thoughts, but here is an expanded reflection by him that I hope you’ll take a few moments to watch. I invite and encourage you to ponder what the gift of Christ means to you and how you might engage the spiritual practice of giving to expand the aperture of your life and change the story inside your head. You are a Christ: beloved, seen.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth