I saw the Milky Way last week while Carroll and I were resting on a dark island. Sometimes dark places are the very best places to see the light, and what a miracle is the Milky Way, this great swirling river of stars in all stages of birth and life and death and rebirth. Sort of like us.
Did you know that we on “this fragile earth our island home”are part of the Milky Way? So even though the Epiphany symbol is a single giant dazzling star lighting the way for the wise seekers to the stable, I believe a whole Milky Way of stars await the seekers around this block. Just open your eyes and ears and heart and You Will See God. That’s the Epiphany Challenge and Promise: God will be manifest for you, in you, through you. Yes!
I offer an Epiphany/ Milky Way story I watched unfold from right before Christmas until, well right now!
One day I got a call from our old friend Doug Hales who was the Business Manager at All Saints’ WAY, WAY back in the day in the eighties and nineties. He went on to get his PhD and teaches Supply Chain Management at the University of Rhode Island, and he travels ALL over the world to teach folks in other countries. Here’s Doug in Taiwan, one of the places he’s texted me from in the last three weeks
Doug got in touch because he had heard that Marian Murphy, the Head Sexton of All Saints so many, many years ago, had had a massive heart attack. He reached across the world and connected us to a person in trouble right down the street from the church at Emory Midtown.
I saw Marian—not conscious. Doug and I texted back and forth. We checked on her again, barely conscious. I forgot Marian in the craziness of Christmas services. But across the world Doug did not. He kept up with her and her family and was as constant as the stars because he knew she needed a friend.
When I did remember Marian, I could not find her. I thought Uh-Oh, I really thought she had died as she was so long in the ICU. I texted Doug, this time in Taiwan. He WAS RELENTLESS with the hospital tracking system and found her after three tries (!!!!) moved into a step-down cardiac room. We had tried but given up; Doug never did. Friendship matters so much! A friend in need is a friend in deed, and that is totally scriptural (See the Good Samaritan!)
The morning Doug found her, Rich Winters, one of our affiliated priests took the eight o’clock for me. Rich and the other priests who call All Saints’ home are the best. I cannot imagine making it through this interim time without them.
So at the New Years’ morning 8:00, Rich took the flock of 99 (actually, I think 18 !) and I walked over to the hospital in the cold and rain to find the lost sheep. And here she is!
Back in the day, Marian taught all of us at All Saints that every job matters, and that keeping All Saints’ spaces beautiful and clean is a holy ministry as much as teaching a class or playing the organ or preaching the sermon. Marian reminds me of Brother Lawrence who taught that “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” Marian taught us to do every little thing right, and O boy, she got after us when we were careless and messed up tidy spaces for no good reason!! For such a little lady, Marian has a big roar!!
Here is the newest sexton at All Saints’, Earle. Earle has a legacy of friendship and good work to live into and he has the best smile in the world!
We live in a veritable Milky Way of blessings, of God’s presence manifested in us, among us, through us. When you are feeling like your way is dark and unclear, remember Doug and Marian and all us Saints, and let the light of compassion guide your way to the next friendship encounter. For after all, as Rilke wrote and Jesus taught,
We can do this by the light of Christ.