spiritual depth communicates across generational lines...

As I continue to explore next steps after moving into a part-time role as minister sometime in 2017, three leads include:

+ playing more music and gigs

+ deepening my work as a spiritual director for individuals

+ sharing my time, head and heart as a celebrant for those who are spiritual but no religious

To say that I am excited about moving into new ministries would be an understatement.  As this summer's discernment process made clear, our small congregation must learn to do more with less even as we reshape our ministries according to the Spirit's lead. We are NOT simply about bottom lines, but rather the invitation to let our hearts sing in creative ways. And today, celebrating the baptism of a sweet child made my heart sing. I know and love the family well. I have travelled to Turkey playing jazz for peace with some. I celebrated the parents' wedding. I have worked with them on community renewal projects. So, when they asked if I might work with them to reform a baptism liturgy of their child, it was a no brainer. I began by saying:

Welcome in the name of God, giver of life, who creates us all and loves us all: Creator,

Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen. Today we gather both to celebrate the gift of this beloved child into the world – and our lives – as well as to baptize her into a community of love. In all spiritual traditions – including the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the passage of time is honored and marked with rites of passage and rituals of dedication. This day we join ourselves with people of spirit in the circle of life. Throughout the world, in many faiths, and countless ages, our elders understood that we must welcome our children into a community of love: God’s love, our love and the love that is at the heart of all creation. For unless we guide and shape our children by love and responsibility, they remain unfocused and unable to use their wild hearts to protect the common good.

In my Christian tradition, we remember that often there were those around Jesus who wanted to keep the little children away from him. But he insisted that they should be included in the circle not only to receive a blessing, but also because they can change our hearts, too. His saying that some of the first shall be last and the last shall be first suggests that there are times when our children are the best teachers, imams and rabbis we’ll ever meet. But only if we are awake and paying attention, not taking our little ones for granted or diminishing them in anyway.  And so we gather to bless and baptize this child in a celebration of love and life for this is our commitment as adults, family and friends: we will guide and cherish her as a precious gift from God. 
Let us pray: Creator God, source of love, life and blessing, we offer this prayer of thanks for the joy given to us this day. You have shared new life with this family. You have bestowed new responsibilities and sacred insights upon both mother and father And you have called us together now to join in their delight and responsibility in caring for this precious child. Guide us with your Spirit that we may be patient and understanding, ready to share and forgive as life requires; so that in our love for her she may know true love. May she learn to love your world – and the whole family of creation – as did Christ Jesus, in whose spirit we are guided this day. Amen.

After sharing three readings - from Ecclesiastes 3, Rumi and I Corinthians 13 - I offered a brief homily including these words:

What we are doing today is holy: we are reclaiming an ancient truth that has all too readily been sacrificed on the altar of expediency. We are, you see, celebrating the arrival of this child into our lives in a sacramental and mystical way: we are training ourselves to claim beauty in the ordinary and hope within our humanity at a time when so many human beings are filled with fear and despair. Like one of my favorite writers, Sr. Joan Chittister, says: the awakened ones of creation practice seeing the eagle within the egg. Or as the Sufi poet, Rumi, puts it:
We are to become midwives – all of us – who know that not until a mother’s womb softens from the pain of labor will a way unfold for the infant to be born…

So let me be clear with you about this mystical, sacramental celebration: religion and spirituality are changing in our era – and that is a good thing. We are no long rule or culture bound; we have liberated ourselves to find new meaning in old traditions, new insights in ancient wisdom, and new ways of living within the human condition. As a culture shaped by the Enlightenment, we’ve relied upon science and rational thought to be our guide for more than 500 years and this way has brought blessings to all of creation to be sure. But it has also limited our ability to access the deeper truths of heart and soul and love. It has fostered the illusion that we are in control of our lives when, in truth, that is arrogant folly. And so, like many here today, we’ve given up on traditional religion in pursuit of a new/old way of integrating head with heart and body with soul. For us much of the church has become oppressive, irrelevant, wooden and punitive. It is without heart and soul and we ache for refreshment.

Take our use of water today: it is a universal symbol of both cleansing and refreshment. Both the human body AND the earth are mostly water – they are both about 60% water – and that is not coincidence. That is by design how-ever you wish to understand that word; human beings and all creation are mostly water – and the rest is star dust – carbon, hydrogen, helium arranged in a delicate balance tt gives
 us life and breathe and meaning.

We spoke together of what godparents might mean in our new setting - and vows - and even spiritual education in a multicultural context that still honors and reveres Jesus. And then, after giving the 80 people instructions, I invited them to come forward and offer signs or symbols or words of blessing to the child - and they did so with gusto. And the baby loved every minute of it. Then we prayed over the water, baptized her in a traditional way and evoked God's blessing upon us all. A party of gentle souls sharing food, sunshine and conversation followed at the country home of the grandparents.

I came away with two insights: informal but spiritually significant rites of passages still speak volumes to young people who may have abandoned the institutions of their youth. This is worth exploring more deeply. I also verified my hunch that integrity, self-deprecating humor mixed with authentic spiritual depth communicates across generational lines. I'll keep you posted on further developments.
photo credits:  Dianne De Mott

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