By the time you read this it will have been two days since the Feast of the Epiphany as well as two days since we collectively witnessed, with equal parts incredulity, abhorrence and heartbreak, the insurrection that took place at our nation’s Capital building. I suspect you were as horrified as I was watching and wondering how could this possibly be happening in our country? Commentator after commentator likened this to a “banana republic” activity common in other places in the world but certainly not here and not now. I have spent more than a few moments wondering about that, have you?
As utterly tragic as that event, as well as the rally leading up to it no doubt was, should we be surprised that we have come to this? Sadly, I am not. This has been a painful four years in our national narrative. We are a nation utterly and terribly divided; we have lost the ability to engage in civil discourse; we have forgotten that growth and transformation of people and ideas often come from creative tension and the art of engaged persuasion; we have stopped seeing and respecting the value and dignity of every human being. We have lost our collective way of being civil.
So where do we go from here? How can we walk the fine line of staying engaged while not sinking into despair? What can our faith teach us or help us to understand as we struggle to make sense of this painful time? One possibility is to cling tightly to the narrative we are offered every week in scripture and in community- not as a tepid antidote numbing us from this painful reality, but as a lifeline that just may inspire and support and challenge us as a community of faith.
This Sunday, January 10th we will celebrate the commemoration of Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, and we will hear these words:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’ (Mark 1:9-11).
I have grown so fond of this passage over the years, but perhaps not for obvious reasons. Oh yes, baptism- the sacrament in our tradition that seeks to offer the most radical way of welcoming us home to a way of love, yes that is something to be fond of, but there’s more there for me. It is the words that follow, perhaps because I need to hear them on a regular basis: “You are my [child], the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Those are the words that make my heart sit up and remember what is easy to forget; we are, all of us, pleasing and beloved- not because of what we have or have not done; not because of what we do or don’t believe; not because of who we voted for or what we believe about the validity of our national elections- we are pleasing because we are, well, made in the image of God – the ultimate source of Love.
What do you think would happen if more people, starting with us, could remember that or some equivalent of that concept in other traditions? I am still on the journey trying to work this all out in my own heart but for today I am taking a little time to sit quietly and do my own personal inventory asking myself what I might do differently when I forget about that belovedness. At the same time, there is no doubt in my mind that we are being called these days to be, as Ted Loder beautifully describes in the prayer below, to be bold participants rather than timid saints in waiting.
Let’s continue to find ways to come together to listen and learn from and with each other and then keep pushing ourselves forward ushering in the kin-ship of heaven here and now. I’m grateful for being on this journey together.
Empower me to be a bold participant,
rather than a timid saint in waiting,
in the difficult ordinariness of now;
to exercise the authority of honesty;
rather than to defer to power,
or deceive to get it;
to influence someone for justice,
rather than impress anyone for gain;
and, by grace, to find treasures
of joy, friendship and peace
hidden in the fields of the daily
you give me to plow. –Ted Loder
May you never forget that you are loved.