Clergy often say, that Sunday morning is not their own worship time. Because they’re working. On the job.
I am not that clergy person. Yes, I am working, but I am deeply engaged with you in the Sunday morning experience of actual worship, even though I am 'the celebrant’.
And, as the celebrant, I am keenly aware of the moments, the energy, the movement, within the liturgy.
Last week I was ‘keenly aware’ of the water of baptism and the sacramental drama we engaged in, when we sang “Down to the River to Pray” and everyone processed to the font, encircled it, and stood together for the reading of the gospel and the story of Jesus’ baptism.
I know it’s a vulnerable thing, to do something like that as a congregation. Might make you a little uncomfortable, because its a vulnerable act.
Getting up from your seat, and moving out of the pew.
Singing and walking around and going somewhere.
Embodying the definition of Liturgy, which means in Greek: the work of the people.
Attempting to follow new rubrics (liturgical directions) gracefully, like Episcopalians are want to do.
But we gave it a whole-hearted try, and it was rugged and beautiful.
When I felt your nearness and gathering, your presence, your voices coming close, the movement of your feet, your circling around; It was powerful. The energy changed. The human element animated and transformed. It became a living symbol. I wanted to just stay right there, for a long time.
It’s not like the moment happened ‘by accident’, the Worship and Music team planned it that way.
And, although we cannot orchestrate spiritual experience for one another, the Worship and Music team thought about, talked about, mused and envisioned, what the season of Epiphany might mean for us and how we could create liturgy in just that purposeful way.
We chose the Font as a center-piece for the season, to move it front and center as a sacramental gesture, “an outward and visible sign for us, of inward and spiritual grace". We chose it because it is overt and obvious, as a symbol of gathering and becoming community.
We are born of this holy water. We’re kin.
We are born of God;
We are born, like Jesus was born, of Holy birth waters, Holy womb, Holy human flesh.
We gathered around the font, and then we saw Jesus, dip down into the water with John. And we got in, too. Down into the Jordan River.
And suddenly, there in the water with them, we realize our sameness.
We see Jesus in the water with us and realize that He is like us.
He is human.
The water ripples and parts and encircles us together with him in the water.
Our human form immersed with his human form.
You and me, in the water with the Holy Incarnate One.
We see Jesus in the water with us and realize that we are like him.
We are holy.
Even in our humanity. Even, born of a woman. Even, ordinary, physical, and earthbound.
We are holy.
He got in the water with us, so that we would know it.
That He is human, and that we are holy.
He got in the water with us, by way of his Incarnation, and by way of his Baptism.
Splashing about in the water with you, for the humanity of it, and for the holy.
We’re missing one essential piece: A Crib!
Of all the Christmas kinds of things to say,
“We have room in the inn and we need a crib for the infant child to lay his head. . .”
Yes, we’re having a baby!
Well, actually, we're having a toddler.
Daniel is 3 years old.
We will open our doors and welcome the holy family, on January 8th, this coming Tuesday. Toni and Katerina Makela, from Helsinki, Finland, will be our guests for one semester, from January to June, as Toni begins his studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
Jesus said the Greatest Commandment is this:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”.
It’s called: the Shema.
It is from Deuteronomy chapter six.
Deuteronomy cradles that commandment with an initiative:
It says to write the love on the doorposts of the house, to strap it to our foreheads, and to twist it around our hands, wrists, and up our arms. In other words: an initiative to live the love with our full being.
It says to talk about the love of God as we’re sitting down and rising up, when we eat and when we lie down, and when we walk out the door and onto the lane and into the world!
In other words: Words! Love language. Think it, say it, speak it.
Fill up, bubble up, overflow with love!
And that is what we are doing with this open door of hospitality. A second opportunity to be home for some from a faraway land, to welcome in, to love, to offer respite. To be a place to live in love with God.
We’ve done it before, and we are good at it!
God delights in our big hearts. Our generosity. Our vulnerability.
Our entrepreneurial spirits. Our willingness to risk.
Here we go! For another experiment in love!
God inhabits our house,
and even you and I, in our very bodies, are his holy habitation.
Keep the love.
Live the love.
Keeping and living, with you,
Reverend Ruth Pattison
Rev. Pattison serves the people of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church as the Parson, exercising her gifts for collaborative leadership through preaching, liturgy, and the pastoral arts.