January 26, 2020
Although my daughters have been providing sermon material and stories for decades, today I want to speak to you about sons. I have one son, Michael — Michael is my wild child, my wild Epiphany child.
This is the child who called me shortly before the Christmas break in his first year of college and dropped the fraternity bomb — “Hey, Mom, it’s your son. Oh, by the way, I rushed and joined a fraternity last night and I might need five hundred dollars.” That was a shock. This was the same child who spoke disparagingly about sophomoric idiots who joined fraternities. In fact, I couldn’t remember that he had ever said a positive thing about fraternities. And, on the heels of that announcement, there was this one, the band —The Pinch. He calls and tells me he’s in a band. I am stunned and asked the typical mom questions, “But what instrument do you play?” “Play? None, I’m the lead singer and songwriter!” “What? Singer and songwriter? When did that happen? You dropped out of band in the seventh grade. I didn’t even know that you could still read music?” “Read music? Why would I need to do that!”
Where does this impulsive behavior come from? Unpredictable. Michael has always done this sort of thing. Diving into the deep end of the pool at eighteen months. Climbing over the fence at daycare at 22 months. Rushing headlong into one adventure after another, pulling others into the whirlwind of activity. For years we were on the first name basis with the emergency room staff — stitching up, X-rays, crutches and casts, concussions and chaos.
Unpredictable, impulsive, always doing the unexpected. When he announced he would be attending law school he called again, “Hey mom, it’s Michael, you know, your son.” Frequent check-ins were not his style — “So I’m thinking about maybe going to law school, in Vermont — I might need some money” “What? Vermont, isn’t that all the way across the country, have you ever been there?” Frankly this was the most radical thing — Michael was my socially gifted child. He was a junior in college when he discovered there was a direct correlation between the time he spent in the library and his grades. Law school? This just didn’t compute with my alternative rock band, snow boarding, absolutely charming, party loving son. My beautiful, wild spontaneous son — a lawyer?
Michael leaps into the unknown. He is my Epiphany child. He is my metaphor for Epiphany. Epiphany is the season of reckless journeys. Wild, impulsive behavior toward stars and rivers and an encounter with the living God. Epiphany is the season when we celebrate our going to God — moving forward toward the light.
Beginning with those wisemen kings, it is our story about the truth of dreams and the longings of the human heart to see God. Epiphany is the festival of dreamers. People who hear voices, see visions and impulsively follow stars. Epiphany is the festival of childhood and the intuitive knowing that outstrips the intellect and leaps headlong into dreams and into the river of Jordan.
Who but impulsive, naïve, childlike persons and mad magicians envision a child who on love alone will build a kingdom, whose pierced hand will hold, no scepter, whose hallowed head will wear no crown, who will bring us new life and receive our death, whose Kingdom belongs to those in need? Who could imagine such a thing?
Epiphany is the time we celebrate the story of journeys taken by those who seek after God’s reign. How could my wild Epiphany child survive in this world? And then I thought about my life — off to seminary at 25 with two babies before women were even being ordained? And then, years later, ordained and called again and again into service of this Jesus who calls us to this reckless life — Texas, Arizona, NYC, LA, Seattle, San Diego and Lopez Island.
My son and I each have had lives filled with dreams and visions of a better world — a world of relentless love. Michael is a lawyer, married, father of two amazing little girls and he and his wife, Jen are unafraid of living all out, full tilt and of course, here I am, with you. I need you to know that I was called, called to be here to help you imagine a future that may require following the wild star.
So, who is it that asks that we place our confidence in the inexplainable and surrender our lives to what we cannot see? Who calls us to live for the impossible and drop everything for a dream? Who seeks our attention and will not let us go but pursues us with relentless love?
Jesus calls us “in our joys and in our sorrows, days of toil and hours of ease, still he calls, in care and pleasures, ‘Christian love me more than these.’ ‘Christian, love me more than these.’”
Epiphany is an invitation to go on a journey we cannot order or control, following a way we cannot fully comprehend. The call as seen in today’s gospel is a reckless one. Contented fisherfolk, casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee. The next day Simon and Andrew, James and John are following Jesus. Dropping everything. This is the kind of behavior I expect from Michael. They leave behind everyone. Reckless behavior. And Jesus, what was he thinking? What kind of followers would these people be? Had he checked them out beforehand? Did he know if they were bright enough, competent enough, dependable enough to be disciples? I think not! What reckless and impulsive behavior on all sides. Jesus simply says, “Follow me” and they follow. No creed to believe, no doctrine to adhere to, not dogma to accept, no contracts to sign, no background check into their worthiness. “Follow me” and they did it, immediately.
What fools they must have been. Leaving everything. Didn’t they know that it would cost them everything? Didn’t they know that their world would be forever changed?
“Follow me…follow me…follow me…” the words ring though the ages. Where are we going? What will it cost? Why this way? “Follow me…follow me…follow me…”and here we are today. Do we dare? Do we really dare to follow the one who still calls us to leave everything? Do we dare follow one who standards are so low that all are welcome?
But here is the truth: we will follow someone or something in this life. It is inevitable — money, power, fame, beauty, immortality. We are constantly being persuaded to follow one path or another. We are relentless pursued by Madison Avenue, Wall Street or Hollywood. Do not be deceived — you will choose a defining center, we all do.
The question before us today is this: Are you willing to risk following the path of the one who called us to see heaven itself? Are you willing to center your life on something so reckless as to promise a glimpse of the glory of God? If the answer is yes, then I promise that life will never again be the same and you will be changed forever. The price you will pay is everything — the gift you will receive is immeasurable joy. The invitation to follow Jesus is an invitation to come out and play. To imagine that he called Peter and Andrew, James and John away from their nets to anything less is to misunderstand the call.
It is an invitation to join with all creation in a dance filled with laughter and celebration of feasting and festivity. We follow Jesus down a path that gives life meaning and purpose, depth and joy. In fact, we are invited to become like children. Perhaps my son Michael has known that secret all along.