Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Homily for St. John’s Day, December 27, 2016

The Rev. Lucy Reid, Incumbant of St. Aidan in the Beach, Toronto

Readings: Sirach 15:1-6; Psalm 93; 1 John 1:1-9 John 21:19-24

It’s such a privilege and a pleasure for me to be here with you on your patronal festival. Thank you. And may I wish you all a merry Christmas and a hopeful new year.

I want to share some reflections that come from the writings of John Philip Newell on John the Evangelist, or John the Beloved as he is sometimes called. Newell writes that in the Celtic tradition when John leans into Jesus at the last supper he is listening to the heartbeat of God. And, seen that way, Newell writes:
He became a symbol of the practice of listening—listening deep within ourselves, within one another, and within the body of the earth for the beat of the Sacred Presence.

And he continues:
Do we know that within each one of us is the unspeakably beautiful beat of the Sacred? Do we know that we can honor that Sacredness in one another and in everything that has being? And do we know that this combination—growing in awareness that we are bearers of Presence, along with a faithful commitment to honor that Presence in one another and in the earth—holds the key to transformation in our world?
-Newell, The Rebirthing of God, 2014 (Skylight: New York) xvii.

In the passage from Sirach that we heard before the gospel today, describing the one who seeks and finds Wisdom, it says that such a one “will lean on her.” This echoes the image of John leaning into Jesus, who embodied Holy Wisdom.

When we encounter true wisdom, we discover or remember who we are, and who God is.
As Newell writes, The gospel is given to tell us what we do not know or what we have forgotten, and that is who we are, sons and daughters of the One from whom all things come. It is when we begin to remember who we are, and who all people truly are, that we will begin to remember also what we should be doing and how we should be relating to one another as individuals and as nations and as an entire earth community.
John Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts, 2008 (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco) p7-8.

The contemplative life, as you know better than I, enables us to listen to the heartbeat of God, to hear our true name, to see as God sees with compassion and hope. Sometimes the contemplative life simply enables us to keep calm and carry on in the midst of the messy brokenness and pain of the world around.

The contemplative way helps us all to see the treasure hidden in the field, the Christ child in the most ordinary of places, the handprints of God in all of creation.

Newell shares another image to convey this hidden truth:
A nineteenth-century teacher in the Celtic world, Alexander Scott, used the analogy of royal garments. Apparently in his day, royal garments were woven through with a costly thread, a thread of gold. And if somehow the golden thread were taken out of the garment, the whole garment would unravel. So it is, he said, with the image of God woven into the fabric of our being. If it were taken out of us, we would unravel. We would cease to be. So the image of God is not simply a characteristic of who we are, which may or may not be there, depending on whether or not we have been baptized. The image of God is the essence of our being. It is the core of the human soul. We are sacred not because we have been baptized or because we belong to one faith tradition over another. We are sacred because we have been born.
- Newell, Christ of the Celts, 2008 (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco) 2-4.

John the Beloved shows us this golden thread.
May we, like him, lean into the loving heart of Jesus, lean into Wisdom, and listen to the heartbeat of God. Amen.

Read about Lucy Reid's spiritual journey HERE