THE VIEW FROM ABOVE THE CLOSE
Walking to the edge, then walking off…
In my sermon on September 9, I used a quote Jennifer Hornbeck, St. John’s seminarian in 2000-2001 wrote to me. Jen neglected to tell me who said or wrote the quote—though I intend to ask her the next time she calls—but so many people asked me about it I felt I should include it in this month’s VIEW.
“When we walk on the edge
of all the light we have
and step off into the unknown,
we must believe that one
of two things will happen:
There will be something solid
for us to stand on
we will be taught to fly.”
Walking on the edge is an apt metaphor for the life of faith. We are called by God out to the margins both to touch and be touched by those ‘on the margins’ of life and to risk walking off into what is unknown.
I used to have a poster on the wall of my office in my first parish. The poster was a beautiful picture of sailboats at anchor in a harbor surrounded by beautiful hillsides. The water was glassy still. The sailboats were new, well built, shining in the sun. The words on the poster said: SHIPS IN A HARBOR ARE SAFE, BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT SHIPS ARE FOR….
The Life of Faith calls us to the open seas, to unknown waters, to encounter storms and risk the wrath of the winds. But what we want—deep down—is to rest at anchor. What we want is to “be safe….” Stepping off the edge requires courage and trust and faith.
I have come more and more lately to believe that God is calling each of us as Christians to "walk on the edge…then walking off” in our lives. To be Jesus People we must live with risk and commitment and adventure. The tricky part of it all is that we aren’t all called to the same edge. You may be called to a vastly different “edge” of your life than the person sitting beside you on Sunday morning. You may be called to take your moral stand into the political realm—fighting for some noble cause. Or you may be called to endure with patience and courage some illness in your life or the life of someone you love. Or you may be called to stand up against racism or discrimination in your workplace. Or you may be called to sacrifice higher pay and a more prestigious job in order to spend enough time with your children. Or you may be called to befriend someone who needs your support even though it is costly to you in terms of time and energy. Or you may be called to make a change in your personal habits in order to enhance the lives of those who love you. Or you may be called to resist gain that you could achieve by “bending the rules”. Or you may be called to give more generously—even sacrificially—to help those in need.
I could go on and on. Each of us must discover the edge God is calling us as a person to walk off of into the unknown. But I know this in a powerful and profound way—each of us is being called, in some important way, to ‘take a risk’ for God. It is simply the nature of the Christian life.
Every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. and Wednesday at noon, the Eucharist is celebrated in the Chapel of St. James next to the north wall of the church. The readings we use come from a remarkable little book called Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Week after week, year after year, we recall those who are on the Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church. All those folks walked to the edge and then off into the unknown. Many of them gave up their freedom, their security, even their lives for their faith. Not all of us are called to be martyrs—in fact, only a scant few of all Christians are called to that ultimate risk. But we are all called to the ‘edge’. And we must all believe that when we finally accept that call, one of two things will happen. Either there will be “something solid” to stand on or “we will be taught to fly….”
Listen for God’s call. Seek out the ‘edge’ of life God is calling you to. And have faith—your foot will hit something solid or God will teach you to fly….