In these last four and a half months, as I have lived and served alongside people here in Santiago, I have been given the nickname by the people here as the ¨Pastora of the streets.¨ It is a name that the elders and young kids have given to me and I am honored to have. I have had many conversations with people who have come to me for prayer, for encouragement, for hope in the midst of struggle. I share with them the love God has for them that has been revealed in Christ. And at the same time, I rejoice with them in sharing that I have been delighted to see the hand of Christ in them, illuminating my time here…an Epiphany that occurs almost daily.
I find it quite fitting that my last day in Guatemala falls upon Epiphany. In the Lutheran tradition, Epiphany is a feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. In some Eastern church traditions, it also celebrates the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan. The word, Epiphany, comes from the Greek word that means ¨manifestation, striking appearance, vision of God.¨
As I was telling a friend of mine about my new nickname given to me here, she encouraged me to write a sermon of the streets as I close my time here in Guatemala and as I ponder on what it has meant for us to receive visions of God in this day and in this land these last four and a half months. So here it is, my Epiphany sermon of the streets.
Scars, Story, Name – An Epiphany Sermon of the Streets
I have often wondered what our stories would sound like without scars. If the wounds we hold deep from war, from sickness, from despair, from hunger, from death – were swallowed up and held within an embrace as that of a mother who kisses skinned knees and wipes clean the tears from our faces when struggle is the daily bread that sticks to the roof of our mouths like the tortillas and salt used to still growling stomachs…
She opened her eyes wide as she walked up to me from the shore, her toothless grin competing with the silhouettes of the mountains cascading behind her.
¨Na’abi? What is your name?¨
¨Yaquiel,¨ I replied.
¨Yaquiel,¨ she sighed and repeated over and over again as she walked back to the shore to wash her peraje.
She looked like you – the One who gave us a new name.
He sat across from me in the tienda, tears in his eyes as he told me the memory of his mother saying she wished he were dead. Yet through the tears, he spoke of finding a Love more profound than the story-scabs he carried.
He looked like you – the One who wept alongside us.
She wept into her long, black hair that covered her face. She looked up at me and said, ¨I lost two children in the war, but I have been reminded in these last days what it is like to have a daughter again.¨
She looked like you – the One who yearns to gather us in Your embrace.
He ate lunch with me as he spoke of joining the guerilla army when he was ten years old. A weighted gaze adorned his young, but wrinkled brow that bowed heavily over his tortillas.
He reminded me of You and our yearning for Your Peace to reign eternal…
Like dry bones gifted flesh, we wonder if breath could enter into these scars and bring forth life. We wonder if we are being beckoned to be surprised at the hand of the Christ taking hold of us, showing us that our scars are not signs of punishment or abandonment, but rather that they are moments where we squint more earnestly to see Your hand at work in our world.
The Spirit hand that moves breath into our lungs and into the northern winds that stir up Lake Atitlán. The Spirit that groans alongside us in our daily labors. The Spirit Advocate who sees our scars and cries out for justice. The Spirit that whispers into our scars, ¨Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.¨* The voice of our Christ who declares, ¨I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you… ¨*
We waited on the shore and watched the sky turn from blue to yellow to purple as the eye of the moon gazed at us from above. We opened wide our scars to the epiphanies around us – the sounds of kids kicking a plastic soccer ball in the street, the waves of Lago Atitlán lapping as a fisherman rowed his cayuca, the splashing and beating of clothes against rocks as women cleaned their cortes, the mists that crowned Volcán San Pedro´s peak, the wrinkled hands of elders who open their homes and hearts, the broken body and blood poured out for us.
We felt the wintery scales from our scars fall off onto the flowered ground of this land of eternal Spring. The scars of our winters cracked open over our stories and ushered us into a womb of an empty grave that birthed us into resurrection, eternal Spring, where scars and wounds were swallowed up and held in an embrace as that of a mother embracing her beloved, as that of the Christ gathering us into His scars.
She emerged from the baptismal waters of Atitlán, ¨Quenta´abi May you be well.¨
She looked like you – the One who emerged from the water, Beloved of God.
We stepped into the Lake, all of us together, speaking a benediction into the breeze before us and behind us. Our words and stories floated in the wind and came back to us.
¨Na’abi? What is your name?¨ the eternal Spring breeze whispered to us.
¨Our name is not orphan,¨ we sang. ¨Our name is child.¨