Last Sunday as we celebrated The Baptism of Jesus something new struck us: Jesus was among many people baptized that day. The Gospel of Luke tells us: “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus had also been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven: “You are My Beloved: with you I am well pleased.” You may remember from when you attend a baptism, that the ceremony begins with the presider asking the parents, “What do you desire for your child?” In a typical parish, the parents answer: “Baptism.” (At the Spirit of Life, the answer is much longer…usually a deep reflective expression of the family’s longing for their child as a member of the Christian Community!) The presider then says, “The Christian community welcomes you with great joy.” Next, the parents, family and then the whole community makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the child and says words of welcoming blessing. If you were present for Leela’s Baptism last year, you may recall how Leela (four years old at the time) was entranced watching in wide-eyed wonder and listening intently to the words of each community member blessing her. The community is such an important part of the baptism: we pray together, we reach out to others together, we grieve together, we grow together, we promise to support the one being baptized and their family as we live out our lives together. We fortify each other in living out our resolve to be the best we can be every day.
You may have heard me (Ron) say that one of my heroines is Ayanna Pressley, the new Congressional Representative for the 7th District in Massachusetts. You may have seen the article in last Sunday’s Boston Globe reporting her “second” swearing-in ceremony as a Congresswoman. She took the oath of office again in her home district and then led her constituents in a community pledge saying, “The work of change is a collective and cooperative work and that is why I wanted to come here and have this community swearing-in. I want you to be partners in this work. I wasn’t going to be the only one to take an oath, which is why we made a pledge together today.” She and the crowd vowed to bring “those closest to the pain, closest to the power.” The last line of the community pledge she had her constituents vow was: “I will do my best every day to build a more equitable and just community for us all.” It seems to me that that is a wonderful renewal of our baptismal vows as we celebrate Jesus’ and our baptism: “I will do my best every day to build a more equitable and just community for us all.” As a community of “justice and joy” that is what The Spirit of Life Community is all about. The joy part is remembering in amazement what God says to us every day: “You are my Beloved. With you I am well-pleased.” The justice part is “I will do my best every day to build a more equitable and just community for us all.”
This Sunday the Gospel tells us about the Wedding at Cana. This seems to be a wonderful story about discernment: Mary sees a need: the couple has run out of wine for their celebration. Jesus says, “My time has not come yet.” Mary says to the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus feels called into action now (not later) by Mary’s lifting up the need of the couple. Mary leaves Jesus to discern how best to meet the need. And he tells waiters to fill six twenty-five gallon jugs with water which then becomes wine: a hundred and fifty gallons of wine: God’s economy of abundance: “I come to bring you life, life to the full, ever more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Returning to Ayanna Pressley: you may remember that when she chose to run in the Democratic primary against a twenty year incumbent who had been doing a good job, the party leaders wanted her to wait her turn—wait till he retired. She discerned that the time was now and ran and remarkably won. Her message: “For the families and victims of senseless gun violence, change can’t wait. For our brothers and sisters behind the wall, change can’t wait. For our immigrants worried about the knock on the door, change can’t wait. To women whose rights are perpetually under attack, change can’t wait. To the residents of the 7th congressional district, change can’t wait. To the many families like my own, who grew up feeling like it was us versus the world, that the government didn’t reflect us, didn’t represent us, didn’t advocate for us, didn’t see us, change can’t wait.” Turning to discernment in your life and mine, what is God telling us now about how we can actively intervene in the world: what can we do? With whom? When? On this Martin Luther King weekend, it is fitting that his dream of bringing about “the beloved community” is given flesh anew in Ayanna Pressley and the other passionately visionary members of the new freshman class of congressional representatives. How can we renew our commitment to social justice action in our midst today to bring about the beloved community where all are valued as we build a more just and equitable community?
One of our favorite inspirations, Mary Oliver, died Thursday after a long battle with lymphoma. We leave you for inspiration one of our favorite poems of hers:
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ Mary Oliver ~
As this new year continues to unfold, we are grateful for all the blessings of the past, and open our hands and hearts to the work and to the promise of the year to come. Much in keeping with the philosophy of Martin Luther King, at The Spirit of Life, we work together in prayer and companionship to loosen the attitudes and brokenness which can hold us bound. We believe that God’s desire for us is that we be “Whole” and thus “Holy”… full of life , unfettered by life-destroying prejudices and free to move openly as the Spirit calls us. Our belief in the sacredness of all created beings and loving relationships compels us to respond with care and compassion to all who are marginalized in our church and world. We invite you to come and to pray with us as we “do our own work” in growing into a deeper awareness of our own gifts and ‘growing edges’ and together create “the beloved community” that invites diversity and honors the uniqueness of each individual and every journey. We are confident that you will feel welcome in the “home” of The Spirit of Life.
With prayerful gratitude for your presence in our lives and journey, and with the hope that we might each, in the words of Mary Oliver, be “married to amazement…taking the world into my arms” and live our lives in such a way that we too do not “end up simply having visited this world.”
Jean & Ron