What does Resurrection and reflecting on Jesus’ water baptism teach us during pandemic? Our Virch service allowed us the time and space to worship, examine our highs and lows, and reflect on God bringing us – sometimes through water, wind, and chaos – to better understand our identity as loved and called forward.
Click PDF above for this week’s slideshow.
Good morning folks, it is an honor to share this time with all of you. I’m Ivy – a Pastor here at Reservoir Church. We are for the next few weeks, going to be sharing thoughts about Resurrection – where life and love persist to emerge each and every day..
In our days as they are now, signs of death and separation seem most prevalent… And yet I want us to consider that the voice of God is inviting us to new life, new beginnings even in the most chaotic of times – and that we can find God’s VOICE and direction in the most foundational ways – through the wind and water.
Growing up we had 5 or so steps that led up to the front door of our house … a door that we never really used.. There was too much of a draft caused by that big, old door, and with no system of heat in our house, we had to seal shut where any wind could find its way in.. Walls of plastic weathering material and some mixture of sheets or blankets were hung to block any of that breeze.. BUT on the most blustery of nights – the wind would still make its way through whatever cracks or fault lines we had missed – or I guess, the fault lines we knew, but just accepted.
On breezy nights like these – I’d find my mom out on that little 5 step platform – often taking a long slow drag off her cigarette, and lingering to enjoy the gusts of wind – leaning back in a plastic chair she had pulled off the lawn. I never remember joining her – whether I knew not to intuitively – or whether it had been a directive from her, I’m not sure … but I remember pausing, watching, and being captivated by the picture of her there in the midst of such power, such wild wind – as if she had dipped into something profoundly holy – if just for a few moments.
When I talked to my mom this week, I asked her about the accuracy of these memories… she confirmed, and said the wind for her was like a “bubble bath without the trouble” – and I sort of laughed at that, but listened as she said the wind brought order to the chaos of whatever day she had had, and in some way re-ordered her, internally too – a moment of pause – allowing her to find her bearings in some sense and enter back into our house, (which often times still held quite a bit of chaos).
You may have noticed that it’s been pretty windy here in Massachusetts, these last few weeks… MUCH windy-er than normal… In March and April we have experienced nearly double the average mph gusts. Where I live in Milton – we clocked the highest wind gust at 80 mph this month… Branches and whole trees have been taken down, power to folks across the region has been lost…and these strong winds, of course brought with them delightful elements – like snow, hail and soaking rains.
Which all seems to somehow match the greater chaotic tenor of our lives right now.
In some ways we are….much like that old front door of mine… being exposed to the fault lines in our society’s framework by this coronavirus. It is exposing where we have for a long time been symptomatic – sick with injustice and inequalities – running a race to be the best, most powerful….
AND with the world shutting down – in this forced pause, we as a whole, are revisiting what it means to be human… that we aren’t impenetrable, that we are not invincible.
We are coming to terms with what, and how, productivity should be gauged – realizing that the demands of our work, our schedules, our activities, our academics, our DOING – our ALWAYS DOING – for so long was actually inhumane. And we are feeling this disturbance as the wind blows through the cracks of homes – our systems, our organizations….. (healthcare systems or justice systems, our family systems – and education systems… )
It’s scary – because, as many of you have shared, it feels:
CHAOTIC… overwhelmed hospitals, epicenters of pain and suffering.
DISORDERED…..days, and rhythms and schedules.
so much of our regular ways of making meaning and purpose for our lives feels right now,
Leaving us feeling
Leaving – as I find – many of the cracks within myself equally exposed!
And this widespread cracking – fracturing… feels like with one stiff blow of the wind – it could all come crashing down.
… Our choice it seems – is to,
See it all as the end of the world as we know it..
Or to see it as the beginning of the world as we can make it. .
Option #2 means we go to the cracks.. we see what is up with the wind blowing in, we pay attention to the disruption of this draft…
And we listen…
Because maybe we find God hovering over this chaotic time and speaking to us, inviting us back to our very beginnings, what it is to be human … who we really are, what we are made of, and made for …Giving us direction and anchoring – reminding us that we too are made of wily and wild, and unrelenting forces… forces that love, shape, imagine, and find cracks to be our most fertile starting points .. lined both with CHAOS and the Spirit of God..
Prayer: OH GOD – invite us to hear your voice in the chaos. To see that your Spirit blows wherever it wishes, and invite us to tune in – to hear its sound, to trust it….whether we know where it comes from or where it goes. And may we find our own (new) beginnings as we enter into these wild and powerful currents.
My Story: The chaos I’m feeling these days is not as much in the big highs and lows of emotions that I cycle through on any given day – That seems quite normal actually for what’s going on -given that we are in a pandemic…
But these unique days are exposing a fundamental crack in my being, I think – where my internal gauge of whether I’m doing a good job at life – actually has been lost…AND this is what I find to be chaotic. Because the energy that I expend – and have expended…. to pivot and turn – and look and seek, and be so dependent on external feedback as a barometer of my worth – is scattered all over the place.. And my own sense of self has scattered with it… So in these times of quarantine – I’m trying to find the pieces of myself. .. and it’s unmooring because I thought I had taken great strides in this area – that I had sealed the cracks.
And yet the wind is blowing through these days, moving that great blanket I hung over this section of my heart – and I find the Spirit of God hovering close to me – and inviting me to wade in DEEP waters, not to find the next CREATIVE WORK that I can DO, and feel really good about, but to FIRST RECOVER“Who I am” – and what fundamental truths I have in my soul – Even in times of chaos.
Because chaos it seems, is where God does indeed hover.
The first verses in Genesis – tell us a story that beginnings often look like chaos. That at the beginning of creation there was a watery chaos – and ALSO that there was a great wind blowing, the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters.. AND out of this combo – comes the world, with God’s voice sealing it all saying: “This is good.” (Being Christian, Rowan Williams – Archbishop of Canterbury).
A pattern built into our very world – a pattern of beginnings … chaos… wind… and the voice of God…
MOM I totally dismissed my mom’s comment the other day – that moments in the wind were for her like “a bubble bath without the trouble”, (mostly because I was like yah, of course there were 7 of us – and one bathroom)… but as I was thinking about this embedded, fundamental pattern of creation – of chaos, wind and the voice of God – as a starting point of new beginnings – it actually felt her comment was pretty profound.
That somehow every night as she sat in a plastic chair, in the wind – she was baptized.
Immersed fully in the depths, the messiness of her human-ness, the chaos of her day – AND was met with the deep, hovering LOVE of the Spirit of God.
This is baptism – it sheds us of any falsehood that we can climb our way- produce enough to gain worthiness or holiness…and it just invites us to “die and resurrect” – over and over again, day after day”.. Filtering out the old crust of the day, the things that didn’t work, the versions of ourselves that don’t match the heart of God – and rising again with a new filter, that we are “good” and honored recipients of God’s love.
The voice that spoke into an empty cosmos at the very beginning, that brought shape and form, direction to the world … is the same voice that we can find today in the wind,
The same voice that said long ago, “this is good”.
Is the same voice that says to us, even in our chaos…
“YOU are GOOD.”
“GOODNESS” is a fundamental beginning point for us. AND it is a message that Jesus himself needed to hear…
In the gospel of Mark we see the story of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist, it says…
2)Mark 1:10-11 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the wind of the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, my beloved, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Chaos… the wind… and the voice of God.
A new beginning…
Jesus has not yet launched his crowd-gathering, miracle performing, great teaching movement yet… he’s here standing in front of John, fully human… and we watch him dip into the mystery of death and love and life – to the depths of where it all begins.
And we hear this VOICE TAKE JESUS into the depths of his own soul,
“YOU are loved, you are good, IN you I am so pleased” (already with no “earning” or “striving”).
I take such delight in you.
I believe in you.
This is the deep baptismal message to us – that we need to be dunked in over and over and over again – AND we don’t have anywhere to begin – if we don’t have this.
Maybe we are all in a time of baptism my friends, as much as we are in a time of pandemic.
Baptism – as Jesus shows us here – that is much more than separating ourselves out as privileged – elite – or holy….
…but baptism shows us how to go into the depths of human chaos – to be flesh (as Jesus took on). “To be vulnerable and fully human in the heart of a needy, contaminated, messy world” (Rowan Williams).
AND to do the great, productive work of remembering that as we wade into those waters, we can “reach out our hands from the depths of chaos to be touched by the deep loving hand of God.” (Rowan Williams)
Jesus doesn’t ask us to be all sealed up – free of cracks – .. .but He does call us to recognize the Holy Spirit whose voice flows through those cracks… to recognize what is being exposed at those fault lines.
Baptism affords us the surrender to not fear chaos or be free of it – but to find each other (and be connected to one another), in the neighborhood of chaos – “to be near to those places where humanity is most at risk, where humanity is most disordered and needy.” (Rowan Williams).
It’s in these depths that we find the Spirit is re-creating and refreshing our lives!… calling parts of ourselves out of the grave of self-doubt, apathy, prejudice, hurt, pride and despair and into the garden where we recognize his voice, where Jesus says, “I’m so proud of you…” “I’m so incredibly proud of you.” This returning – to the beginning – allows us THEN to move, to love, to act in this world – in ways that are clear, that GENERATE the founding message of this world, as God’s vectors we say, “THIS IS GOOD”. Rather than divide, destroy or turn a blind eye. So right now I am trying to find a way to be sealed in the voice of God. This returning to who I am … To reorder my relationship to myself and my vocation – whether in normal or abnormal times to see it as larger than any individual job description I’m given, (or ascribe to).
To see that I already have God’s love – and when I can fully allow this love – to be the meaning, direction and purpose of my life – then I’m DRENCHed in my humanity and DIVINENESS as I was made to be – I am baptized.
“This type of baptism restores my human identity and the potential for it to be overlaid by anything” (Williams)…. Baptism takes us right to where Jesus is, IN US, where something keeps coming alive in – where we can see that the cracks in us afford new birth, new sights, new creation in us – for the very work that our fractured world needs.
And maybe our work in this time – or in any time really is to say, “hold up – before you race to do that next project, or submit that proposal, or try to help your kids with on-line school…….take a moment, pause in the wind… “Do you remember who you are?” “Do you remember the call in the wind?
The direction in those deep waters….”
THIS RECALLING of who we are in God, gives us the direction, the guidance to do the great work of no longer just accepting where the cracks are – in our neighborhoods, communities, society – but to do the work of asking the question, “Do you remember what you were meant to be?”
This time of pandemic is ripe and rich with the possibility for change now and in the future. How will we act in love? Many of our community groups are considering this question right now – across their own neighborhoods and cities – but I think it will take us fully entering the baptism of our times – – finding the voice of God that actually asks us to go, “Back to the beginning, back to where it all comes from.. Pleading with us to try and listen again to what God first said to us…”
“This is good.”
“You are good.”
I don’t know what my mom heard in those small moments of sitting in the wind – what the voice of God specifically said to her, (but she must have said something to my mom), – but I do know that she entered back into our tiny, drafty chaotic house – and she showed us love – great love… and how to walk humbly and show mercy. And I know that she returned to that chair again and again – to be baptized in the truth of who GOd made her to be…
So my friends, may we FIND ourselves again – and OUR deep PURPOSE again- in these days – on porch steps, in plastic chairs, as we wash our hands, in living rooms, on sidewalks as we sit at tables, or in the wind – and hear the truth GOD speaks to us, “that we were created by the wind and the water”, and we only need to turn an ear to hear the quiet, persistent refrain, in it – “that we are greatly loved – and that in us – God is greatly pleased.”
End Prayer: Dear Jesus, may we all drink from the holy waters of your One Spirit.. And rise from chaos with your power of resurrection embedded deeply in our souls.
Resource: Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer by Rowan Williams