Monday, January 9, 2012

Baptism of Jesus Sunday: Where is the light? It is here

Just when you think it’s just all too much....I arrive at church to find Jeff and Teddy and Jason and a young woman waiting for me. I go inside to check out the church and it’s as if no one had been there. All belongings gathered up and out of sight. All garbage bagged up and at the curb. All flyers and papers off the desk. And the sign about what we need to beg, borrow or steal.... not especially funny given my lap top...thankfully gone. I breathe a sigh of relief and get ready for Sunday morning.
Andre and Amy are getting the music ready. Some #ows folk have arrived before my members and are in the pews. I’m moved to see Teddy go help Rachel to her seat. John is passing out bulletins. 
I explain at the beginning that it’s a bit of a mash-up Sunday.  It should be (is) Baptism of Jesus Sunday, but Epiphany was Friday and we have a traditon of celebrating Three Kings Sunday. For years we shared that day with SPSA. Last year, Holly brought the crowns and the kings and helped us renew the tradition back at home. 
We start by singing As With Gladness Men of Old.., then light our Advent and Christ candles one last time. I talk about the end of Christmastide. Lift up the drying pine branches. Say how the season begins the day after Christmas when the urban forest appears as if by magic, disappears over night as if it had never been there and ends day after day after Christmas as the trees reappear on the street, giving up their   branches and crushed dried needles  to fill the air with forest scent one last time before being mulched and added to the earth in Central Park.
I ask who knows what Epiphany is. An occupier says it’s like prophecy, Marsha says like a light bulb in a cartoon strip. Like a flash of light, when you get it. And of course, when John reads Genesis, that’s where it begins, with the light coming on.
We chant Nada te turbe and prepare to pray. P_____ breaks into an extended hymn and long extended prayer, looming eviction terrifying her. Occupiers nod in sympathy. 
The gospel takes us to the banks of the Jordan, Jesus and John. I ask how many are baptized. Almost everyone. Who was baptized as an adult? Only one, an occupier from the south. He describes the whole process, the white robe, the pool, the dunking...How did he feel? Nervous. Then I felt good, but I didn’t have an epiphany..and we all laugh.
And I ask who’s had their children baptized and why. And we laugh at the idea that it’s almost like a spiritual innoculation. And then I talk about community and community responsibiity and they nod, again.
And why, Jesus? To be fully human, say some. Tradition, say others. And I talk about solidarity. To truly know us, he has to be with us in every way. This truly is Mark’s Christmas story, God in human flesh, God in us. 
And that it is that which gives us our ministry, not ordination. Jesus had no seminary degree, wasn’t even a deacon. We each have a gift from our birth that no one else has, that we are smarter together than alone, they nod again. And our work is to help each one find that gift, that light and let it come out and shine, for the good of us all.
As we take up the offering, Andre and Amy sing the traditonal Puerto Rican carol, De tierra lejana. We place crowns on the heads of our children. And then I take the basin from our old 800 pound Tiffany font, pour in water. Add some water from the Jordan River. remind everyone that we only recognize one baptism, but anyone who wants to may touch the water and many come up, dip their fingers,touch their forehead, cross themselves. 
And we sing We three kings and Los tres reyes vednos aqui. We gather in a circle. I look around and see we’ve been joined by David the violinist/conductor and Martin the flamencero. P_____ and Teddy ask for special blessings and so I lay on hands. I show Teddy the font. Say I’d like to get it restored some day and he says, Nah, it’s been through it just like us.
The sanctuary folks are arriving, luxuriating in the warmth. I show Jane the old boxed set of 33rpm Montovanis that Bobby has left for her, and she laughs. Magi among us. 
We gather in tbe Session room for a Tres Reyes fiesta sharing  food we have brought, Steven wearing a crown, passing out gifts to the children, including his own. 
The session meets and agrees to venture longer with the #ows folks. We’ll see how it goes. And authorize a high school volunteer. 
I go home to say goodbye to my son Dan and then come back for the gift exchange. And after the Steelers overtime loss to the Broncos, curse you Tim Tebow, I go back to welcome the occupiers back for the night. Where is the light? It is here...

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