Reflections on starting journeys: themes from baptismal scripture

If you can’t fly, then run,
if you can’t run, then walk,
if you can’t walk, then crawl,
but by all means keep moving.
– Martin Luther King Jr.


BELOVED IS WHERE WE BEGIN  — Jan Richardson

If you would enter / into the wilderness,
do not begin / without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing / who you are:
Beloved, named by the One
who has traveled this path / before you.

Do not go  / without letting it echo
in your ears, / and if you find
it is hard / to let it into your heart,
do not despair. / That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise / this blessing will free you
from danger, from fear,
from hungeror thirst,
from the scorching of sun or the fall of the night.

But I can tell you that on this path there will be help.

I can tell you that on this way there will be rest.

I can tell you that you will know
the strange graces that come to our aid
only on a road  / such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort and strength,
that come alongside us / for no other cause
than to lean themselves / toward our ear
and with their / curious insistence / whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.

SONGS about STARTING a JOURNEY

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute,
Whatever you can do, or dream you can—begin it;
Boldness has genius, power, magic in it;
Only engage,—and then the mind grows heated;
Begin!—and then the work will be completed.
—Goethe


It’s just as well, my pitcher shattered
I’m free of all that hauling water!
The burden on my head is gone….
A single well, Kabira
And water-bearers many!
Pots of every shape and size
But the water always One.
— ‘Bhala Hua Meri Gagri Phooti’ –song of Kabir.
translated by Rabindranath Tagore 1915, 55-56


Blessing the Baptism — Jan Richardson

As if we could call you
anything other than
beloved
and blessed

drenched as we are
in our love for you

washed as we are
by our delight in you

born anew as we are
by the grace that flows
from the heart of the one
who bore you to us.

STARTING a JOURNEY

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.– Lao Tzu

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. – Søren Kierkegaard

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. – Tony Robbins

The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance, and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning. – Oprah Winfrey

 We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. – Aristotle

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tell me, O Swan, your ancient tale.
From what land do you come, O Swan ?
to what shore will you fly ?
Where would you take your rest, O Swan, and what do you seek ?
Even this morning, O Swan, awake, arise follow me !
There is a land where no doubt nor sorrow have rule: where the terror of Death is no more.
There the woods of spring are a-bloom, and the fragrant scent “He is I” is born on the wind:
There the bee of the heart is deeply immersed and desires no other joy.
 — Poems of Kabir, translated by Rabindranath Tagore 1915, 55-56

COMMENTARY on BAPTISM

So I hope in this baptismal life ahead of you that when you encounter water – this most common of substances which surrounds land and comprises our bodies…I hope when you drink it in; when you dive deep in a pool of it; when you wade in a stream of it; that even when you wash dishes with it; I hope that you are reminded of the promise of life eternal: a promise that life with God is as close to you as water and bread and wine and human bodies.  Because to be Christian is to know that the eternal is always contained in the present. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Water figures in many of Jyoti’s paintings, as too in biblical imagery: the waters that were ‘the face of the deep’ before creation; the waters of the flood, over which the rainbow shone, sign of God’s covenant of peace with all creation; the waters of the Red Sea parting to liberate the fleeing slaves, the ‘children of Israel’; the ‘water of life’ with which Jesus identified himself, both with the alienated woman at the well and during debate in the temple; the waters of baptism – that of Jesus and of those who accept his way. — Jyoti Sahi Art Ashram

Jesus has become part with the waters. His character is innately like that of water. … water seeks out the lowest place. Or, as [St] Francis says in his Hymn to Creation, the waters are humble – they offer life to others and for others – and in themselves are clear, like light. — Jyoti Sahi Art Ashram

UKAMA Sunday Service & Greetings from Zimbabwe

Abbreviated greetings from Chikanga Church, Mutare, Zimbabwe

Full greetings and project update from Chikanga Church, Mutare, Zimbabwe

Music from Chikanga Church (from prior holiday)

Chikanga Church Music 2 (from prior holiday)

Blessing Zimbabwe Musical Video

Worship Service with UKAMA and Living Waters Focus

Reflection/Sermon on Wells & Rivers: Living Waters

Greetings from JCC Council to Chikanga Church, Mutare, Zimbabwe

Greeting from Jackson Community Church Council to Chikanga Church, Mutare, Zimbabwe

Blessings sent from Rev Gail Doktor for use in Chikanga Church’s UKAMA Worship

Reflections on baptism and new life: themes for this Sunday’s baptismal sacrament

For some reason, there was something painful for me about the idea of being loved completely apart from what I do or do not do. It’s perhaps all we really want in life, and yet the prospect of it, stung. I’m not even sure why. Maybe because it only highlighted how much being loved apart from what we do or don’t do is so rarely something we ever encounter. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo. ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough. ― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

Sunday’s texts for baptism:

Questions to consider:

  • What am I trying to control, all by myself, that I could give over to a love bigger than me? (We are partners in transformation, but we cannot do it alone.)
  • Of what must I let go— in order to allow love to simply hold me and cherish me— just as I am?
  • What part of my life, my self, my past needs to die away to make space and room for new growth, new identity, new connection?
  • What does it mean to be adopted into this messy-but-beloved, sometimes-healthy, trying-to-be-holistic, always-imperfect-human faith community?
  • What am I doing now that I think is obligatory in order to be worthy of love and grace? What if I chose to do these things, knowing I cannot earn love and grace? (Holy love and grace are gifts, freely given.)
  • What do I think needs to be forgiven in myself?

Blessing prior to Mikveh or Jewish ritual cleansing bath:

Barukh ata Adonai Elohenu melekh ha’olam asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al ha’tevillah.

Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the immersion.

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ עַל הַטְבִילָה


What was in that candle’s light
that opened and consumed me so quickly?
Come back, my Friend!
The form of our love is not a created form.

Nothing can help me but the Beauty.
There was a dawn I remember
when my soul heard something from Your soul.
I drank water from Your Spring
and felt the current take me.
— Rumi

The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future, and come in touch with the wonders of the present. — Thich Nhat Hanh

On Baptism

Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church. — Book of Common Prayer

The Church does not dispense the sacrament of baptism in order to acquire for herself an increase in membership but in order to consecrate a human being to God and to communicate to that person the divine gift of birth from God.― Hans Urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child
 

It is a symbol of your new life …. We bury the ‘old life’ and we rise to walk in a ‘new life’. Baptism is like a wedding ring, it is the outward symbol of the commitment you made in your heart, a commitment that has to be followed through and lived out on a daily basis. … It’s meant to show the world that that you love, trust, and have put your hope in Christ. — Hillsong International

Accept the past as the past and realize that each new day you are a new person who doesn’t need to carry old baggage into the new day with you. … For example, if ever I feel foolish or guilty about something I’ve done, I learn from it and attempt to do better the next time. Shame or guilt serves no one. Such feelings actually keep us down, often lowering the vibrations of those around us, as well. Living in the present moment is the recurring baptism of the soul, forever purifying every new day with a new you. ― Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace

Once you have grace, you are free. — Thomas Merton

We have to learn to live our life as a human being deeply. We need to live each breath deeply so that we have peace, joy and freedom as we breathe. — Thich Nhat Hanh

In the ritual of baptism, our ancestors acted out the bizarre truth of the Christian identity: We are people who stand totally exposed before evil and death and declare them powerless against love.  ― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

Simple, powerful, poignant, the Sign of the Cross is a mnemonic device like the Mass, in which we sit down to table with one another and remember the Last Supper, or a baptism, where we remember John the Baptist’s brawny arm pouring some of the Jordan River over Christ. So we remember the central miracle and paradox of the faith that binds us each to each: that we believe, against all evidence and sense, in life and love and light, in the victory of those things over death and evil and darkness. ― Brian Doyle, Credo

Baptism is one of those more effective rites that come in with the new covenant … And the fact that baptism does the miraculous work of binding diverse flesh into one body means that baptism is one of the rites that effects the social salvation of humanity. ― Peter Leithart

You know the one thing I love most about the Baptism of our Lord text is not just that God the Father says “This is my son, the beloved with whom I am well pleased”, but that God says this – before Jesus had really done anything. Think about that.  God did not say “this is my son in whom I am well pleased because he has proved to me that he deserves it, he has quiet time with me each morning and always reads his Torah and because boy can he heal a leper.”  Nope. As far as we know Jesus hadn’t even done anything yet and he was called beloved …That’s God for you. … Because in your own baptisms, God proclaims that in you his beloved children, God is also well pleased. In the waters of your baptism, God claimed and named you as God’s own. Whether it was as an infant or a youth or an adult. Whether your baptism happened in a church you can’t even remember, or in a river at Summer Camp or in a church you love or one that no longer allows you to take communion, your baptism, not matter the circumstance, was most certainly an act of God upon you. Not an act of faith that you or someone else was giving to God. Baptism, is God’s act of Gospel Love. And as is my tradition whenever preaching about baptism, here’s my standard offer: if you have never been baptized, we have water…right here, plenty of it. Come find me during open space and we’ll do it right now because you already belong to God. You are already God’s beloved … That feels like the kind of love that heaven can’t contain  … A love that is yours quite apart from what you do or don’t do … Beloved. Be loved. Just sit and be loved. Even if it hurts.  Just sit and be loved and be the beloved of God. For this is what pleases him.  — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Jesus did not begin to be loved at the moment of his baptism, nor did he cease to be loved when his baptism became a memory. Baptism simply named the reality of his existing and unending belovedness. ― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

I don’t know of any greater baptismal challenges that you and I face than to seek, serve and love Christ in all persons; and to strive for justice and peace among all people respecting the dignity of every human being.  As Chris Keating reminds us, “Jesus’ baptism leads him straight to the world’s misery.”  If the fact that Jesus’ baptism leads him, and each of us as well, straight to the world’s misery and tragedies doesn’t cause you to rethink the meaning of your baptism, then I don’t know what will.  — Bob Burton

Bath (excerpt) — Stuart Dybek
(full text at this link)

She mops a washcloth down his spine and scrubs
until his bones glow with the inner light of porcelain
and when his Haloed hair bursts forth into foam
he holds his nose and dunks beneath the soapy gloom
ears flooding with signals …

He swipes abstractions in the sweat, finger painting night
while Busha towels his hair
as if reviving a drowned sailor
the sea has graciously returned.
Don’t worry, Busha, your grandson is clean
for Saturday night: ears, navel, nails, inspected,
teeth unstained, cleansed as baptism
leaves the soul, pure enough to sleep
—as you instruct him—
with the angels,
cleaner than he’ll ever be again.

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