Homily for Sunday, February 26, 2017
Last Sunday After the Epiphany
“Fun Home,” the heartbreaker / tear-jerker Broadway musical that recently closed, is a detective story of sorts about a lesbian cartoonist trying to understand her recently-deceased father and, by extension, herself. “Fun Home” won five Tony awards in 2015, including Best Book of a Musical for the playwright, Lisa Kron. In just a moment, I will tell what Ms. Kron said upon receiving her award, but it might make more sense if I first say something about the musical.
While “Fun Home” is a coming out story of a daughter who comes to terms with her sexuality, and while “Fun Home” is a coming of age story about a daughter trying to understand her father’s death, a suicide, “Fun Home” is bigger than a coming out or coming of age story. As New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley says, “Fun Home” has a universal appeal that “comes from its awareness of… that element of the unknowable that exists in all of us… [and] how we never fully know even those closest to us.”
This “element of the unknowable” is symbolized not only in the kids’ playing in the caskets of the funeral home and popping up from within to startle their father as he worked (he was an undertaker); the “element of the unknowable” is symbolized not only by Alison’s – the daughter’s – “coming out of the closet” while in college; but the “unknowable” is also captured in the mother’s revelation after the father’s death that he, too, was gay.
Knowing that, here is what Ms. Kron said upon receiving her Tony award:
For many, many years I have had a recurring dream, and I don’t mean a metaphorical dream or a Martin Luther King dream. I mean an actual while-I’m-sleeping dream in which I suddenly discover that the apartment I live in has a whole bunch of rooms I didn’t know were there. And I’m like, “How could I not know about all of these rooms?”
I’ve been thinking about that dream as I’ve been thinking about this amazing Broadway season. Because we all live in this big house and we’ve all been sitting in the same one or two rooms thinking that this was the whole house, and this season some lights got turned on in some other rooms and we’re all like, “Oh my god, this house is so much bigger than I thought.”
The story of the Transfiguration that we heard this morning – and the story of Moses on the mountain – are dream-like stories. There are the disciples on the mountain with Jesus, who begins to shine like the sun. There suddenly appear two people long-dead – Moses and Elijah. There, a cloud overshadows them, and a voice says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well-pleased.” The story of Moses on Sinai, too, is dream-like: “Moses entered the cloud, and… was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” These stories… might they actually be dreams?
Those who study dreams tell us that, in our dreams, not only are we each and every character, we are the writer, the producer and the director. Our dreams, they say, are all about us. Similarly, I like to think that in Scriptures we are each and every character… and also the writer, the producer and the director. Not that we literally were the disciples; not that we actually wrote these stories. But the stories in the Bible are about us. They tell us what’s inside of us and what makes us tick; what we fear, what we desire; how noble we can be, but also how craven; how our hearts can overflow with joy, but also be utterly crushed; how we yearn for contact and connection, but also avoid it; how fickle we can be, but also how loyal. Every emotion that wrings the heart, every act of which we humans are capable, all that is good about us and all that is fallen… everything about us is in the Scriptures. Researchers say that our dreams are all about us; I think the Scriptures are all about us.
In today’s Gospel lesson, then, we are Peter. And James, and John. And Moses and Elijah. We as the writer / producer / director caused the story to happen “up a high mountain.” We imagined Jesus’ face to shine like the sun. We are the ones who thought up Peter’s line about the three dwellings. We are the ones who fell down afraid. We are the ones whom Jesus touches and tells, “Do not be afraid.” This story – like all the stories in Scripture – is about us.
Like all the stories of Scripture, this story tells us there’s more than meets the eye. There’s more within us; there’s more in this world; there’s more about God. The Like Ms. Kron, the Scriptures tell us that the place we live “has a whole bunch of rooms we didn’t know were there. “ They continually remind us that the “house” we live in, in which “we’ve all been sitting in the same one or two rooms thinking that this was the whole house,” “is so much bigger than [we] thought.”
I wonder if the light that the Transfiguration turns on in some of the other rooms of our “house” might be the light of prayer. For centuries, theologians and preachers have regarded the story of the Transfiguration to be about scaling the heights of prayer and there discovering the glory of Christ. Each of us has additional “rooms” within in which Jesus wishes to meet us. As he took the disciples, Jesus wishes to take us to a mountain apart; Jesus wishes to spend time with us; he wishes to show us his glory. Prayer – letting Jesus take us apart; spending time with him; letting him show us himself – is something we all are equipped to do; the story of the Transfiguration is about us.
I encourage us this Lent to let ourselves discover additional rooms in our house. I encourage us to talk to Jesus, to tell him our concerns, to tell him our yearnings and desires, to share with him our joys and satisfactions, to engage with him as we would a close friend. And then to listen. To hear how much he loves you, how kind he is and how tender, how much he desires our wholeness and health; and how he is willing to walk with you in the way. Because he might want to turn on some lights in your house. Because he might be inviting you up a mountain; because he might want to bring you to a place where he can more fully show you his glory. There is nothing more satisfying to the human heart than to live closely with Jesus, and to follow him in his way.
Again, words from Ms. Kron’s acceptance speech.
I’ve been thinking about that dream as I’ve been thinking about this amazing… season. Because we all live in this big house and we’ve all been sitting in the same one or two rooms thinking that this was the whole house, and… some lights got turned on in some other rooms and we’re all like, “Oh my god, this house is so much bigger than I thought.”
Maybe this season we will dare to let him turn on some lights. Maybe this Lent we will all be like, “Oh, my god, this house is so much bigger than I thought.”