Life Is Providential
a reflection by the Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.
I had an interesting moment as I was running over to the church early Saturday morning a few weeks ago. This is part of my routine on the Saturdays before I preach on Sunday. I always like practicing my sermon in the worship space. It allows me to imagine I’m speaking to you. In my mind’s eye, I look for your scowls, quizzical head tips, or even laughs and smiles, and sometimes I even hear an Alleluia! Those Saturday practice times are precious to me because you are precious to me.
Anyway, it was still dark, and as I was running, I saw a person in front of me, some ways off yet, standing at the edge of the sidewalk by some stairs going up to a house. The person didn’t move—just stood there as if rooted to the ground. It was a little strange, but I just kept running toward them. As I approached, I saw it was a woman in a robe, and I offered my usual “good morning.” To which she replied, “Oh, I wasn’t sure what you were.” “Just a light running by,” I said, and continued on. It seemed the right response given I was wearing a headlamp, but as I thought about it, her comment seemed really strange: “I wasn’t sure what you were.”
She must have been a Christian. Maybe that morning she had been reading about the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, and her mind was inclined toward the presence of angels. Maybe she was reading the end of the Gospel of Luke and she was considering the two radiant men in the tomb. Maybe she was wrestling with an issue and hoping an answer would come like the light of Christ.
I’ll never know, of course, but her bewildering statement gave me cause to consider all of the ways we are used, unbeknownst to ourselves, as messengers and agents of God. Life is not predestined, but it is providential. I am reminded of words from the prophet Isaiah who said, “Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you in the womb” (Isaiah 44:2b). The prophet Jeremiah echoed this sentiment, quoting God as saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5). God thought of us before we were born. God gave us skills and passions, but also set us in families, in context, at a particular epoch, so God could use us.
Yes, God uses us often as messengers and agents, and occasionally we get a hunch that this is happening. Every once in a while we glimpse our mere presence or accidental word as having impact beyond our intention. In those movements we get to claim providence, which means it was all God, and we were mere vessels. These are ancient moments. These are cosmic insights that allow us to reach all the way back into the imagination of God and think, “Wow, God saw this coming. God cares that much.”
Now this doesn’t mean we don’t have free will. We do. We can choose to seek God with our lives, with our decisions, within the context that God set us. This pleases God. But whether we choose to seek God or not, God uses us anyway. My hope for you is that as you seek God you will have glimpses of how God is using you. That is providence revealed, and it is an extraordinary thing.
The Thanksgiving Meal Drive Ends This Sunday
Thanks to all of you who signed up with teams to donate meals to families at the YWCA! We have reached our goal of 35 meal baskets! On Sunday, the Fireside Room will be set aside in the morning to join with your team and assemble all your ingredients in laundry baskets. Here are some important points to remember:
- Your team is responsible for ALL the items on this list.
- Make a plan with your team for getting ingredients to a central location for assembly.
- Keep in mind that there is very little food storage space available at Epiphany, especially for perishable items, so please coordinate with another team member to store food until Sunday if you won’t be there.
- The baskets will be delivered to the YWCA on Sunday afternoon, so they should be ready to go by the end of morning services.
Thanks so much for your participation in making Thanksgiving a joyful holiday for families at the YWCA! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me.
The Christmas Tree Drive Begins on November 29
Please help make the holidays brighter for families living in YWCA housing by participating in the annual Giving Tree Drive! There are two ways to give:
Provide a family with a $50 grocery store card, so they can buy and make a holiday meal, and two presents (approx. $35 each) per child. Half of the families have one child and half have two. You will see an Adopt-a-Family tree in the Great Hall starting Thanksgiving weekend (November 29). The ornaments on that tree simply have a reminder about how to adopt a family.
- Adopt one or more of these families by emailing Sherilyn Peterson and indicating a preference for one- or two-child families. She already has family assignments waiting for you.
- Bring the WRAPPED gifts and the grocery card by the beginning of the 11 am service on Sunday, December 13.
You do not need to take an ornament to obtain a family. Just email Sherilyn. As with the Thanksgiving baskets, if adopting a family is more than you can take on yourself, consider teaming up with one or more parishioners to adopt a family together!
YWCA Giving Tree
Choose one of 75 ornaments on the Giving Tree, each one specifying one gift for a child or teenager that has recently moved into YWCA housing and is not part of the Adopt-a-Family program yet. These gifts need to be delivered UNWRAPPED by the start of the 11 am service on Sunday, December 13. Case workers choose from among these gifts to give to these newer families.
The gifts, both wrapped and unwrapped, will be transported to the YWCA on December 13.
Thank you all for your generosity!
Newcomers Reception Rescheduled
If you were planning to attend the Newcomers Reception at the Conn Residence on Sunday, November 22, please note that it has been cancelled. We will be scheduling another event in January after the busyness of the holiday season is over. Stay tuned for details!
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
November 22, 2015
Last Sunday after Pentecost: On Sunday, our services will consider peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by shattered relationships.
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
November 21: YWCA Apartment Clean-Up
A group from Epiphany regularly cleans up and decorates apartments at YWCA’s transitional housing facility to prepare them for new families moving in. If you would like to be a part of this important ministry, contact Ann Beck to get on the volunteer list for times and locations.
November 22: Adult Forum – Understanding Rather Than Believing
Our Bible is the foundation of our faith, and there is a lot to know about it. How do we create a foundation of understanding rather than a constrictive belief system? Join the Rev. Peter Snow in the Christie House Library at 10 am for a discussion of how to study the Bible.
November 22: Thanksgiving Meal Drive Assembly and Delivery Day
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the Fireside Room will be set aside during Formation Hour (10-10:45 am) for Thanksgiving Drive teams to assemble their meal ingredients in laundry baskets for families at the YWCA. The meal baskets will be delivered that afternoon. We are up to 31 meals–only 4 more to go to reach our goal of 35! Learn more about the drive here.
November 26: Thanksgiving Eucharist
Start the day of thanks by giving thanks to God for everything God has done and is doing. Put the turkey in the oven and come to the Great Hall at 9 am for the annual Eucharist service.
November 26: Thanksgiving Dinner at Epiphany
Diane and Terry Carlisle are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at Epiphany for anyone who would like to come and spend time with the Epiphany family. They will provide the turkeys, and you are invited to bring a side dish and a game to share with the group. We will gather in the Great Hall at 2 pm and sit down to eat at 3 pm. Contact Diane to RSVP.
November 26 & 27: OFFICE CLOSED
In observance of the holiday, the Parish Office will be closed on Thanksgiving Day until Sunday, November 29.
Events Down the Road
November 29: Adult Forum – Presiding Bishop’s Installation Sermon
At 10 am in the Fireside Room, come hear more about the Episcopal Church’s new presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry and watch the video of the sermon he preached on All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) at the service of his installation as the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter & Paul in Washington DC.
December 2, 9 & 16: Advent Evening Series – In the Bleak Midwinter
Do you sometimes find the false cheer of commercialized Christmas contrary to the inward longings of your heart in the Advent season? The days are short, the leaves have fallen, and trees laid bare. The mood outside the window often reflects the inner bleakness, and that’s okay. Join Carmen Hoffman and the Rev. Kate Wesch in conversation about faith laid bare in Advent on Wednesdays at 5:30 pm in the Great Hall and the Fireside Room. Find more information here.
December 4–20: Frank Lawler in Holiday of Errors
Parishioner Frank Lawler co-wrote and will act in a play called Holiday of Errors this season. A farcical mash-up of Twelfth Night, Richard III, and A Christmas Carol, it is as silly and bawdy as any Shakespeare comedy and lots of fun. Frank stars as William Shakespeare. Performances are at 12th Avenue Arts. Click here for more information.
December 4, 11 & 18: Organ Recitals at Noon at Plymouth UCC
On Fridays during Advent, Plymouth UCC is hosting guest organists for a midday recital series, including Michael Kleinschmidt from St. Mark’s and Paul Thornock from St. James’ Cathedral. Find more information about the music programs at Plymouth here.
December 11: Northwest Boychoir Presents Lessons & Carols
The Northwest Boychoir will perform at Plymouth UCC with Douglas Cleveland on the organ at 7:30 pm. Find ticket information here.
December 18: Early Music Guild Presents Praetorius Christmas Vespers
A joyful celebration of Christmas in the style of 17th-century German Vespers at 8 pm at St. James’ Cathedral. Find ticket information here.