As I sit down to write this article, I struggle with what to say. If I address racism, for some it will be too little, too late while for others it will be too much, too soon. If I address police brutality, for some it will be not strong enough while for others it will be unwanted and unwarranted. If I address the protests and riots there will be similar reactions. If I address the political climate--no matter what I say—some will be encouraged while some will be dismayed. If I address the pandemic and what we are doing or not doing, some will strongly agree and some will adamantly disagree.
I think that in it all many of us are feeling angry and deeply sad, overwhelmed and frustrated, scared and uncertain, restless and eager for things to be different. We think and feel we should be “doing” something. And it can be difficult to know where to direct the energy building up inside of us. Some of us think we should know more and do more while also sure that others should know better and do better. Some of us think we have the right answers, even if we haven’t asked all the right questions. For most of us our point of reference is “self” in contrast to the “other”--how we feel, what we want, what we think, what we know, what we are doing. It’s not unusual for our energy to come out in trying to direct or help the “other” from our point of reference. In that, we think that we are taking action when often we are trying mostly to find relief from how we are feeling. We’re not “acting” in ways that truly are for and with the “other”. In all of our anxiety and frustration about the state of the world, we have forgotten that, especially as the body of Christ, there is no “self” without the “other”, there is no “us” without “them”. This week, Richard Rohr wrote in one of his devotionals---Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just “forgotten that we belong to each other.”
We belong to each other. Period. In the body of Christ, we belong to one another in the covenant of our baptismal vows. In our baptismal vows, we affirm that we renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin. We affirm that we accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We affirm that we confess Jesus Christ as our Savior, put our whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as our Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races. And we affirm that according to the grace given to us, we will remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world.
We belong to each other because in God’s mercy, we all belong first to God. And because we all belong first to God, God will guide us in belonging to each another in the midst of these times in which we live. The Holy Spirit will empower us to fulfill these baptismal vows we’ve made. It will not look the exact same for all of us, but as we remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world, we will all begin looking more like Jesus.
So, as I struggle with what to say that isn’t too much or too little, too soon or too late, maybe it is enough today to simply remind us all that we belong to each other and that the way we live into that is by upholding our baptismal vows. I wonder how you are keeping these vows in the midst of all that is happening? Where do you need to remember that we belong to each other? To whom do you need to remember that you belong? How will you demonstrate that belonging? May I suggest that you start, and stick, with breathing and praying. Then listen—to the Holy Spirit and to one another. In listening, be open to learning more about what you don’t know about one another, and about yourself. In learning, be willing to humbly confess where you have missed the mark. In the mercy of God, then remember that the Holy Spirit empowers you to be a faithful disciple of Jesus. In the grace of God, then actually be a faithful disciple of Jesus in thought, word, and deed.
Breathing and praying with you through it all,