Harrowing Of Hell
June 14, 2015

Engaging the Mysterious Possibilities

Preacher: The Rev. Kate Wesch

Proper 6B
June 14, 2015
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
Mark 4:26-34

I never cease to be amazed by the gardeners in our midst here at Epiphany. Why even while the campus is torn up, the gardens and grounds remain gorgeous. Face it; things are a hot mess. We have scaffolding, plywood, gravel, dumpsters, temporary fencing, even a couple of port a potties, scattered across the campus, and yet flowers bloom, and beauty flourishes thanks in no small part to Gieth, Alice, and a host of others who help with weeding, watering, and tending these holy grounds.

This is one example out of many that demonstrates how so many people are working together to make this time of transition and dislocation a period of teamwork and adventure instead of dread and frustration. Thank you, all of you, for that.

You see, I’m always amazed by thriving, well-tended gardens because I don’t exactly have a green thumb. I’m more the opposite. I typically kill plants, admittedly through neglect or disinterest, but I’m still in awe of those of you who can take a plot of land, some soil, seeds, some honest hard work, and bring forth beauty from the earth. It’s incredible.

That’s where my mind wandered this week as I prayed about the parables we heard from Mark’s gospel—these stories of scattered seeds that are like the kingdom of God and a mustard seed, the tiniest of all, that will eventually turn into a giant bush.

There is so much metaphor packed into the act of planting a seed and watching it grow. A seed is a dead thing or at the very least a dormant thing. You plant it, or scatter it on the ground, as today’s parable says, and wait for it to sprout and grow. It is buried. You wait. And it is resurrected.

The section we heard from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a reading familiar to us from funerals. The last line we heard, to me, is the most powerful and evokes the image of this seed, sprouting and rising from the ground, growing towards the light, reaching for the sun. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

The seed, you see, is resurrection. The seed is new creation. The seed can be Jesus or even the Kingdom of God. “Sometimes Jesus appears concealed so that he might be revealed. The purpose of the concealment is so that Jesus might be revealed in all of his mysterious ambiguity,“ writes Methodist preacher Will Willimon.

In a world filled with certainty and facts, experts and specialists, it’s kind of comforting to have a realm of our experience in which mysterious possibility or mysterious potential is the accepted norm. The kingdom of God is certainly mysterious concealed in one moment only to be revealed fully in the next.

It’s kind of like those really real moments we are always talking about, those moments when life’s circumstances, our heart’s desire, our mind’s attention, our body’s feelings, our community’s support, our soul’s purpose, and God’s presence are all known to us fully at the same time, in a providential instant that is permanently embossed upon our hearts. It happens in a flash and it is unforgettable.

That is revealed mystery. That is tangible potential. That is divine possibility when it reaches out and grabs you, shaking you out of your complacency and routine in a way that cannot be ignored. What I’m curious about today is how do you experience mystery? Where do you go in your life to engage mysterious possibility?

There are BIG ways in which we do this like Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. That example jumps to mind because this week we are sending a group of ten pilgrims to Jerusalem. Elizabeth Walker and myself leave on Saturday for a 10-day Pilgrimage with eight members of our Youth Group. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land is one of the seven spiritual disciplines and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I invite your prayers while we are away: for the encounters we will have, and for the ways in which this trip will change us.

Doyt will be leading another adult pilgrimage as well in February 2016 and there are still a few spots available if you would like to join him.

The Pilgrimage in Place is another way to engage mysterious possibility. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about and others haven’t a clue. The Pilgrimage in Place is what we, as a parish, are doing while our rector, Doyt, is away on sabbatical this summer. While Doyt is off traveling the globe, climbing Mount Rainier, and generally resting and renewing himself, WE are also being renewed.

The Pilgrimage-in-Place idea was dreamed up by a team of parishioners who had a whole lot of fun coming up with activities, making these fantastic passports, and helping it all come together. It includes going for walks, cooking dinners, walking labyrinths, viewing movies, praying, meditating, and in fact anything else you want it to include.

The idea is to engage the mysterious possibility of God with intentionality. We have one particular parishioner who goes for a walk every day and when she gets home she writes a haiku. She also happens to be 90 years old. I’d say that is an excellent example of a Pilgrimage in Place.

I have another story to tell you, and it’s about the experience Terry Carlisle had last Sunday night cooking dinner with a group from Epiphany at Operation Nightwatch. Terry is no stranger to Night Watch, in fact he is the Ministry Leader here at Epiphany for our Friday night men’s shelter in which eight homeless men come to us from ONW and spend the night on the floor of the Christie House Library every week. But last Sunday, the Pilgrimage in Place event was about meeting at the ONW dispatch center to cook and serve a meal.

The comments and observations I share here are Terry’s. First, he was blown away by the enormity of what this small organization does with so little; with only a handful of staff, a miniscule building, and primarily volunteers like many of you, they have a BIG impact on homelessness in the City of Seattle.

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?” Jesus asks. “It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is grown up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Jesus wants us to think small. Tiny seeds, mustard seeds. Unimpressive shrubs.
Maybe Jesus would be impressed by giant gestures, Nobel Peace prize winners, and the like, but I imagine that what this parable suggests is that Jesus might be even more impressed by Pastor Rick Reynolds who runs Operation Nightwatch.

We are, all of us, pilgrims of life and we have this metaphorical seed inside us. That is our spirit, our heart, it’s the same thing. It’s there lying dormant or neglected perhaps, waiting to be actualized, full of mysterious possibility, bursting with potential.

I believe there are innumerable ways to tap into the mysterious potential of the spirit. It can happen when we come together as a church community to worship and praise God.

It can happen while out taking a walk and praying as you take each step. It might happen while walking a labyrinth, hiking the Camino in Spain or the Pacific Crest Trail, or simply walking around Green Lake with a friend.

Going on pilgrimage, whether it is “in place” or a journey across the globe, requires stepping outside your regular routine and intentionally meeting God in a new way—that happens serving a meal at Operation Nightwatch, walking a labyrinth, traveling to Jerusalem, just to name a few. There are limitless possibilities.

So, what are you going to do this summer to tend the blessing seed inside you? How are you going to tap into that mysterious potential and see what your spirit is capable of in this world?