Frederick Buechner died last month at his home in Vermont. He was 96 years old. Although perhaps a writer and pastor from a different age, his words made deep impressions on me, some phrases now carved into my heart. He implored us to listen to our lives: to pay attention, to recognize the divine presence in tears, a broken cup, a flash of light. As he wrote:
"If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."
This call to pay attention, to wake up, to notice, is - I believe - at the heart of Christianity and at the heart of our faith. Even amidst war and greed and horrors of all kinds, our tears speak to us, the rustle of the leaves whispers holiness, the brisk morning air is sacred.
This listening, this paying attention - even when our hearts break or flutter or race - is how we recognize God's shimmer. And so we practice becoming quiet and listening, by showing up on Sunday, or by getting very, very still and waiting upon the sparrow, the rain, the child.
Good People, it is an honor to be listening with all of you. As we move through this new year, may we also listen to one another - our grief, our hopes, our questions - and continue to discover God in our midst. Things are new, and life unfolds before us...