Sharp About Your Prayers

the challenges, absurdities, and joys of an urban faith

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I Spy

January 3rd, 2013 · No Comments · Faith and the City

Fifteen years ago, a New York photographer named Walter Wick teamed up with a writer, Jean Marzollo, to produce a children’s book called “I Spy.”  The book was an immediate hit, and quickly spawned a series of sequels.

The premise of the “I Spy” books is simple, but captivating.  Each page contains the photograph of an elaborate scene.  Picture a sandy beach strewn with the debris of a shipwreck.  Alongside the picture is a list of items that readers are challenged to locate: “I spy a hook, a saw, and a castle door.”

The “I Spy” books are a godsend to parents on long car trips.  My kids love the treasure hunt; although, they will be the first to tell you that the payoff isn’t quick.  It takes time and a practiced eye to study the intricate images and to find the prizes embedded within.

As Epiphany approaches, I have been thinking that the church is like an “I Spy” picture.  To the uninitiated (the visitor—the newcomer trying out church for the first time), a Sunday morning at FAPC can look like a complicated jumble.  Yet, over time, if a person is willing to sit still long enough, if a person lingers over what is going on, she or he can start to see things in the midst of the hubbub.

I spy a six-year-old telling her mother the story of Noah’s ark.  I spy a deacon with his arm around a woman who just lost her father.  I spy a homeless man asking for a MetroCard.  I spy an usher kindly taking the man back to see Amanda.  I spy a circle of people holding hands in the vestry—praying for shut-ins who will not be able to make it to worship that day.

The longer we are at it, the more we see.

In fact, if we keep at it, if we stare long enough, we might start seeing other patterns in the hodgepodge.  We might catch ourselves saying:  I spy grace.  I spy reverence.  I spy redemption.

This Sunday is the first Sunday in the season of Epiphany.  For early Christians, season of “Epiphany” was a time to celebrate the light of Jesus being revealed to the world.  Working on my sermon this week, it occurred to me that the testimony of early Christians might be boiled down to one exceedingly basic sentence:

I spy God.


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