Baptism of the Lord C: Becoming

Butterfly and waterOLD TESTAMENT: Isaiah 43: 1-7

Read the Old Testament passage

This is another of Second Isaiah’s oracles of hope. It is essentially written with the idea that the divine calling of the prophet is to comfort all people. It is a clear pronouncement of God’s presence in Israel and with the people. This passage uses some clear language—created, formed, named—in both its opening and at the end. And in between this inclusio, of sorts, is a depiction of God’s redemption and salvation. It reminds us that God never leaves God’s people, that God is always and forever present with the ones that God created, offering them continued renewal, recreation, and redemption.

The central verses of today’s passage elaborate the nature of Israel’s redemption. Israel is named by God and belongs to God. Israel is redeemed not as a tool in God’s hand but as the beloved in a close relationship. References to the wealthiest nations of Africa at that time (Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba) emphasize how precious Israel is to God. Israel’s redemption is not manipulated from afar by a distant deity but is experienced through the presence of God among them. Israel is not promised escape from the dangers of water and fire but that God will be with them in the midst of earthly trials. In this we hear echoes of the flood and the wilderness wanderings. But these verbs are in the present tense, reminding us of the past but also of God’s continued presence and continuing offering of redemption. God seeks to comfort the ones that God loves. Rather than judgment, the people are offered grace.

Remember that this part of Isaiah was probably written to exiled people as the time of exile was ending. It was an invitation to return home. So, from that standpoint, it echoes our own invitation to baptism and for us baptized, a reminder to remember the journey that we travel.

This is a wonderful passage to read in conjunction with the whole idea of Baptism. Through Jesus’ baptism, of which we will read in a moment, that same love is affirmed on an individual basis and is offered to all. For us, it is a reminder for us to envision that redemption as a part of our incarnation, a part of our formation. In essence we are living already redeemed, already loved and beloved, and already beyond what we think is possible. Ukranian / Russian philosopher Lev Shestov said that “It is only when [one] wishes the impossible that [he or she] remembers God. To obtain that which is possible, [one] turns to those like [him or herself].” Baptism is a reminder that we are more than what we imagine and that we connect with a God who is more than what we know and that, no matter what, God walks us through those waters toward redemption.


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What does that mean to live “already redeemed”?
  3. Do you think we really grasp God’s love for us? What stands in the way of our truly understanding that?
  4. What does it mean to live “beyond the possible”?


NEW TESTAMENT: Acts 8: 14-17

Read the passasge from The Acts of the Apostles

After the stoning of Stephen, the Greek-speaking believers fled Jerusalem to avoid arrest. Philip went to Samaria and through his preaching, a number of Samaritans became believers in Christ. Essentially, the spread of the Gospel was in full swing. The problem was that they had apparently gotten a little excited and perhaps ahead of themselves. So these people had been “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” but, supposedly had not received the Holy Spirit. (Although, I’m not sure how they were able to measure that! Perhaps they were just making sure they had said the words right.) So when the apostles arrive, they prayed that the Samaritan believers would be given the Holy Spirit (assuming, of course, that that had not happened before). Here, Baptism is essentially a technical term for “immersion” into the full person of God—the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. But now, these believers have also received the Spirit (Whew!).

As odd as this Scripture is, it is reminding us that Baptism cannot be separated from formation. Even when we baptize infants, there is an understanding that formation has begun, that the Holy Spirit has begun to be a part of their lives. It is more than just saying that one believes in God. At all stages of formation, Baptism, the Spirit, and formation cannot be separated. Baptism alone does not make a relationship with God; it is rather an ongoing and continual growth toward oneness with God.

Keep in mind that all through the Book of Acts, these new believers are sort of in “transition”. They knew they had something but they didn’t know what it was or what to do with it. (Perhaps they are not that different from us!) But once it was clarified that this baptism was in the name of Jesus, they understood. This understanding prompts the Holy Spirit. This, though, does not presume a formal relationship between Baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit. The liturgy is not a magical potion but, rather, a proclamation of what God has done and what God is doing. Baptism is more than about individual experiences. It is, rather, an extension of what God is doing in the world.

Interestingly, a large part of our understanding of baptism is formulaic—“I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. They cannot be separated. (The main part of the reason the United Methodists do not “accept” the baptism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has to do with this formula. The LDS baptism is done in the name of Jesus and at that point membership is confirmed. The Holy Spirit is a gift to the baptized that comes AFTER baptism.)

But maybe the conversation needs to include less about what we do and more about what God does. Ultimately, God does the work of conversion rather than us. We can proclaim, we can pray, and we can cultivate spiritual practices. I suppose, sadly, we can even scare people into coming to the altar, holding out some sort of God-forsakenness in an unbaptized existence. But when it’s all said and done, it is God and God alone who converts us. We are invited into what God has already done and what God continues to do. We are invited into transformation.


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What happens if we lose the “formation” part of our Baptismal language?
  3. In what ways do you think we typically “misunderstand” baptism?
  4. What affect does that understanding of baptism have on the church itself?
  5. How do we typically understand the presence of the Holy Spirit in baptism?
  6. How do you think we typically understand God’s work in baptism?



GOSPEL: Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

Read the Gospel passage

The early part of the Gospel According to Luke is filled with “expectation-building”. The writer relates the story of Jesus’ birth, his early trip to Jerusalem, and the arrival of John the Baptizer. I think on some level, the writer of Luke is building to this moment—birth, formation, and life in its fullest, creation, redemption, and eternal life. John replies to the expectations of the people by telling them that someone greater than he is coming. This message is shared by all three synoptic Gospels, but the reply concerning the threshing floor occurs only in Matthew and Luke. The Baptist mentions the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.

The seriousness of baptism is made clear by the metaphor of the threshing floor. This is not an act to undergo lightly. We do not believe that it just something that we have to do; it is instead linked to salvation. It is inclusive. We are judged, we are redeemed, and we are given the gift of life. It is not merely a rite of the church. It is the active work of God. And, notice, that even this very human Jesus, Son of God though he was, could not baptize himself. It is a communal act. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

And then the heaven is opened and the Holy Spirit descends. All of heaven spills into the earth. (What a mess THAT probably makes!) The two can no longer be separated. Like the passage from Isaiah depicts, God is with us. This is the inauguration of Jesus’ kingship. Finally, there is room. Eternity dawns in this moment. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the work begins.

This story of Jesus’ Baptism calls us to remember our own. It, too, is our beginning as the gift of God’s grace washes away those things that impede our relationship with God and gives us new birth, new life. And it calls us to do something with our life. But I actually don’t remember the day of my baptism. It happened when I was a little over seven months old, on Palm Sunday, April 15, 1962. It was at First United Methodist Church, Brookshire, TX and Rev. Bert Condrey was the officiant. I had a special dress and lots of family present. That would be all I really know.

And yet we are reminded to “remember our baptism”. What does that mean for those of us who don’t? I think “remembering” is something bigger than a chronological recount of our own memories. It is bigger than remembering what we wore or where we stood or who the actual person was that touched our head with or even immersed us in water. It means remembering our very identity, our creation, what it is that made us, that collective memory that is part of our tradition, our liturgy, our family.

That is what “remembering” our baptism is. It’s not just remembering the moment that we felt that baptismal stream; it is remembering the story into which we entered. It is at that point that the Christian family became our own as we began to become who God intends us to be. And for each of us, whether or not we noticed it, the heavens spilled into the earth and the Holy Spirit emerged. And we, too, were conferred with a title. “This is my child, my daughter or son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

And in that moment, whether we are infants or older, we are ordained for ministry in the name of Jesus Christ. We are ordained to the work of Christ and the work of Christ’s church. Caroline Westerhoff says that “at baptism we are incorporated into Christ’s body, infused with Christ’s character, and empowered to be Christ’s presence in the world. [So then], ministry is not something in particular that we do; it is what we are about in everything we do.” (in Calling: A Song for the Baptized, by Caroline Westerhoff, p. xi) In other words, our own Baptism sweeps us into that dawn that Jesus began. And, like Jesus, our own Baptism calls us and empowers us to empty ourselves before God. As we begin to find ourselves standing in those waters with Christ, we also find ourselves ready to be followers of Christ.

You are part of something beyond yourself, beyond what you know, and beyond what you can remember. Rainer Maria Rilke once said that “the future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” Your past now reaches far back before you were here and your future is being transformed and redeemed in you even as we speak.


I’ve heard that Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformation leader, passionately reminded people to “Remember your baptism!” I can’t remember my own baptism. It happened in Canton, Ohio, at St. Joseph’s Church, when I was only two weeks old. But I think Luther meant something bigger than our historical memory of one day. And I have a feeling he wasn’t just talking about dressing up in a pretty white dress or suit, having a party and, if we’re a baby, everyone saying how sweet we look. In his catechism, Luther wrote, “A truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism once begun and ever to be continued.” I think Martin Luther wanted us to remember each day who we are, and whose we are, and how beloved we are. Even in an age when we spend so much time talking about “self esteem,” don’t we still long to hear that we are beloved? (From a reflection on this week’s lectionary by Kate Huey, available at, accessed 6 January, 2010.)


After he was baptized, Jesus stood, dripping wet, to enter his ministry. The heavens opened up and poured into the earth. All of humanity was there in that moment—those gone, those to come. We now stand, wet with those same waters, as we, too, are called into ministry in the name of Christ. Then…it is up to you to finish the story. This day and every day, remember your baptism, remember that you are a daughter or son of God with whom God is well pleased and be thankful. You are now part of the story, part of this ordering of chaos, part of light emerging from darkness, part of life born from death. You are part of God’s re-creation. And it is very, very good. Go and do likewise.


  1. What meaning does this hold for you?
  2. What meaning does this shed on your own baptism?
  3. What meaning does this hold for your own spiritual journey?
  4. What does it mean to be “beloved”, to see yourself as a daughter or son of God?
  5. What does it mean to imagine that God is indeed “well pleased” with you?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:


The soul must long for God in order to be set aflame by God’s love; but if the soul cannot yet feel this longing, then it must long for the longing. To long for the longing is also from God. (Meister Eckhart)


What we are looking for on earth and in earth and in our lives is the process that can unlock for us the mystery of meaningfulness in our daily lives. It has been the best-kept secret down through the ages because it is so simple. Truly, the last place it would ever occur to most of us to find the sacred would be in the commonplace of our everyday lives and all about us in nature and in simple things.   (Alice O. Howell, The Dove in the Stone)


You are destined to fly, but that cocoon has got to go! (Nelle Morton)




Invite people to renew their Baptism by saying to each other. “Remember who and whose you are, God’s beloved daughter with whom God is well pleased.”


Think about it…Jesus was still wet with water after John had baptized him when he stood to enter his ministry in full submission to God. As he stood in the Jordan and the heavens spilled into the earth, all of humanity stood with him. We now stand, wet with those same waters, as we, too, are called into ministry in the name of Christ. As we emerge, we feel a cool refreshing breeze of new life. Breathe in. It will be with you always. Then…it is up to you to finish the story. Then…the journey begins. So remember who and whose you are. Remember your baptism and be thankful for it is who you are.


Wash, O God, our sons and daughters, where your cleansing waters flow. Number them among your people bless as Christ blessed long ago. Weave them garments bright and sparkling; compass them with love and light. Fill, anoint them; send your Spirit, holy dove, and heart’s delight.


We who bring them long for nurture; by your milk may we be fed. Let us join your feast, partaking cup of blessing, living bread. God, renew us, guide our footsteps, free from sin and all its snares, one with Christ in living, dying, by your Spirit, children, heirs.


O how deep your holy wisdom! Unimagined, all your ways! To your name be glory, honor! With our lives we worship, praise! We your people stand before you, water-washed and Spiritborn. By your grace, our lives we offer. Recreate us; God, transform!

(Ruth Duck, “Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters”, The United Methodist Hymnal, #605)

Proper 10B: There’s Always Time for Dancing

Dancing-praiseOLD TESTAMENT: 2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 12b-19

Read the Old Testament Passage

In this passage, David moves the neglected ark to his new capital in order to place God back into the center of communal life. However, the same move is a shrewd consolidation of his own political power. David has conquered a city that was not part of any tribe; Jerusalem can literally be termed the “city of David.” Why does he want to move it? His initial motive is not given, but, positioned after the events narrated in chapter five, one can wonder whether David is adding to the luster of his city.  2 Samuel 6 begins with an impressive number of people (30,000 men).  This finalizes the move to kingship.  At this point this becomes a permanent, established dynasty.  The joining together of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms is magnified by the number of people present.  The allegiance to Saul is over and all are united around David.

David, of course, is never perfect but is God’s choice.  And so, he donned an ephod and he danced…they danced with all their might.  They placed the ark, the center of worship where it belonged, made offerings, distributed food, and celebrated.  The ark had been returned after being captured by the Philistines.  It was now the center of the community, the center of shared life.  The ark, the container for the commandments that had accompanied the people as they wandered in the wilderness, was a “visible symbol of God’s awesome and never-ending Presence.”  But under King Saul, the Ark was not in place.  It had been gone for about 30 years.  David brought it back.  And it was something to celebrate!  And the worship showed this—there was dancing with everything they had.  The ark was back.  God was here!  And then they shared a meal together before going to their homes.

You know, you can say what you want about David and about all of his shortcomings, but he knows how to worship!  There was nothing reserved.  This was a pure, unadulterated expression of joy in what God has done and what God is doing.  It’s hard for us to get there, but, when you think about it, isn’t that what worship should be?

Nineteenth century Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard developed an analogy called the “theater of worship”. Now I know that sends all kinds of red flags up for us. After all, we take real exception to anything in worship being deemed a performance. But Kierkegaard takes it a step further. So, think about your answer to three questions. First, when you think about worship, when you think about the place of worship, when you imagine sitting in the sanctuary, where is the stage? Second, who are the actors? And, third, who is the audience? Well, most people will say that the stage is the chancel—the altar, the pulpit, the cross. And most will then answer that the actors in the theater are the ministers, the musicians, the liturgists. So, of course, the audience is the congregation—all of those who came to worship. But, that’s not what Kierkegaard said at all. His answers? The stage is the whole house of worship. If you really think about what worship actually is, it is the whole house of God, so I would contend that the stage is everything beyond these walls too, the whole of Creation. And the actors are the ministers, and the musicians, and the liturgists. They are also the congregation. Every one of us, every child of God, is an actor in this theater of worship. So, then, who is left to be the audience? God…God is the audience. God is the one we worship.

I’ve always loved that. I think it puts it in real perspective. Our worship is not for us. It is not penitence or requirement. It is certainly not therapy or a way to get our lives back on track. The expectation for our worship is not limited to what we get out of it. Worship is the work of all the faithful who gather to praise, honor, and glorify God. It is reflection on what God has done and response to what God is doing. In worship, we somehow, some way, enter the mystery that is God. Worship, whether literally or figuratively, is a dance with the Divine. So, how passionate is our worship? How prepared for worship are we when we come before God? How filled are we with awe for the God of us all? How deep is our joy for what God has done and what God is doing? What expectations do we bring to our worship? Are we hoping to leave feeling good or comforted? Are we expecting to find God? Sure, sometimes we get that. But that’s not what it’s about. Worship is more than sitting in the pew and hoping that God will somehow visit us this day. Worship is transcendence. It is about opening ourselves up to something that is beyond our imaginations and certainly beyond our control. Worship is not the place where God comes to us. That is actually the rest of our life. Rather, worship is the place where we go to God, where we stand in awe of our Creator, of the things that God has done, and begin to move. With fear and trembling, we let our feet move to a different beat, and find ourselves in celebration and praise, dancing with all our might. Angela Monet said that “those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” It sort of makes you look at David’s Ephod Dance differently, doesn’t it?


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What does this tell you about worship?
  3. How do most people in our world view worship?
  4. In what ways are we called to dance? What stands in our way?


NEW TESTAMENT: Ephesians 1: 3-14

Read the Epistle Passage

In the Greek, this is one sentence! Perhaps the writer (probably not Paul but rather a student or disciple of Paul) did not have Mrs. Roberts for Freshman English! The blessing speaks of Christ as an expanding sphere of influence or power, intent on filling the whole universe. This gives shape to its understanding of mission. The earth shall be filled with God’s goodness. But this Scripture can also lead to mistakenly understanding the church as an entity that is meant to take over everything – a kind of imperialism. Sometimes the focus appears to be on renewal and positive transformation which will be good for people. Sometimes one has the impression that it is all about subordination and absorption. But the heavenly and spiritual space appears not to be a far away place but a dimension of existence in the here and now as we participate in this life. The goal is relationship and is meant inclusively. It is meant for all.

The benefit appears as redemption, deliverance, and forgiveness of sins. But limiting it to that is really a narrowing of the idea. Here the mystery is about God’s plan to bring oneness. It is all encompassing with Christ filling all things. The author’s focus shifts immediately to ‘you’. He means his Gentile readers. What was once generally applied to those deemed as “chosen”, the religious, the “church”, this sense of being chosen, of being redeemed and forgiven, of being informed about the divine plan for the world, is now being applied to those once excluded. No one has a private claim on the Spirit.

This passage, then, can enable us to see ourselves, our world and our place in it in ways that are part of the whole tradition. We are adopted. We need to realize that there was no concept of “adoption” in the Old Testament. The word “adoption” wasn’t even used in the Old Testament because the Jews didn’t practice it; adoption wasn’t part of their mindset. Nor was the word or concept in the mind of Jesus who was a Jew. Nor is the concept of adoption found in the first four gospels. But for the Apostle Paul, adoption was part of his Roman world and adoption was used at least five times by Paul. You need to understand Roman law to understand adoption. For example, girls weren’t adopted under Roman law. It was part of Roman law that only sons inherited property. The Roman Caesars’ adopted sons frequently in order to give them their grand inheritance, and the focus was on the Caesar who chose a son to be adopted. In adoption, it was the will of the Caesar that was important; not the will of the son. The Romans practiced “patre potentus,” (the patre = father; potentus = potent). Adoption presupposed a potent father. All legal rights were with the father and none with the son. It was the father’s will which controlled everything. The concept of adoption was pleasureful, a source of happiness and joy as the Caesar designated his adopted son to be his designated heir and receive a grand inheritance. It is the pleasureful will of the Caesar that is important; not the will of the adopted person.

So, in similar terms, our adoption, then, is the will of God; it is sacramental. God has adopted us. It is already a part of us.

  1. How does this passage speak to you?
  2. What does this image of “adoption” mean to you?
  3. What does the concept of inclusiveness mean as it relates to adoption?


GOSPEL: Mark 6: 14-29

Read the Gospel Passage

Now you will recall that back in Chapter 1 of The Gospel According to Mark that we read during Advent, we were told that John the Baptizer had been arrested. We then hear no more from or about John until this passage. Now most of this account is told as a flashback, which is actually a sort of rarity for Scripture. Here, the Gospel writer throws the announcement down in front of us: John the Baptist, that odd camel-hair wearing, locust-eating, wilderness-wanderer who preached repentance and change and pointed to the light of Christ was dead, viciously beheaded by the powers that be. And then we hear the account of how and why that came about.

It’s an odd story, almost fable-like. Herod Antipas has had John arrested because he had denounced Herod for putting aside his legitimate wife and marrying the wife of his brother. (Whoever told us that soap operas were a modern invention?) And yet, on some level, Herod found John fascinating, maybe even respected what he had to say and yearned to hear more, although he definitely thought it was disturbing and confusing. But he certainly did not wish him dead. But this was not the case with Herod’s wife. So, in order to accommodate his wife’s wrath, he has John arrested.

And then Herod throws himself a birthday party, a big to-do with lots of good food, good wine, and dancing. And the entertainment for the evening was provided by the young, beautiful, dancing daughter of Herod’s new (and John had contended illegitimate) wife. Well Herod was so pleased with her performance that he promises her anything. The world was hers.

So the young girl runs to her mother just outside the room. Here was Herodias’ chance. Her nemesis John would meet his demise and she would be rid of him. And so the young girl returns to the party and makes the fateful request for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod must have nearly choked. This was not what he wanted! His vengeful wife and this spoiled child had crossed the line. He knows that no matter who John is, he does not deserve death.

But, as the governor he was in what he construed as a tenuous position at best. After all, he had made a promise and had voiced it in front of numerous witnesses. If he didn’t follow through with it, no one would trust him again. So to save face and to secure the balance of power, he complied. After all, he was governor. Some things have to be done for the good of society and for the preservation of the way things are.

Our tendency is to more or less excuse poor, pitiful Herod. After all, he almost couldn’t help it, right? He was married to a spiteful wife with a spoiled daughter. And he had to be under a lot of pressure as governor. After all, things were really not going that well. He had to show people that he was still in control or the whole society would fall apart. We almost feel sorry for him, but, in the end, he still gives the order and takes the easy way out. He still has to take responsibility for what he’s done.

So what does this have to do with us?  Why is this passage even included in the Gospel in the first place?  What exactly are we supposed to glean from a story that is so violent and so gory and seemingly so totally out of time and place?  Commentators have always pointed out the parallels between John’s death and Jesus’ Crucifixion and thought that perhaps this was the writer’s way of foreshadowing what was to come later in the Gospel.  But if that was the only reason that this was included, it would be easy for us to remove ourselves from it altogether.

Perhaps we’re also meant to look on this as a reminder, a call to witness, if you will, of who we are and who Jesus calls us to be.  Because we can say what we want to say about Herod; we can point to his weakness, to his need to appear in control, and to his fear of who John the Baptist really was and what John’s words meant in his life.  The passage tells us that Herod feared John because he was righteous and holy.  In other words, he revered him enough to know that on some level John was right and that John’s words meant that Herod would have to change his life.

But this is not just an historical account about Herod.  I really do think that somewhere in this passage, we are meant to find and look at ourselves and our own lives.  Because we, too, make our own concessions—not to the point, obviously, of ordering someone’s death but in our own way we also bow to convenience and convention.  On some level we all live our lives wanting to be victorious and successful, wanting people to like us, and, like Herod, we sometimes miss the opportunity to do the right thing.  We close our ears and our minds and we leave, hoping the whole messy thing will just go away.  And we miss the opportunity to be who God is calling us to be.

Maybe that is the reason that this horrible story is here in the first place; otherwise, we’d all be tempted to start thinking that this Christian walk involves following some sort of miracle working-healing-rock star-Superman character.  Well, sign us all up for that!  But it’s not about that.  Jesus kept telling everyone not to say anything about all those miracles because following Christ does not mean going where the miracles are; it means becoming Christ-like.  It means becoming holy.

Think about it.  The disciples are riding high on the power of Jesus’ teaching and miracles.  And Jesus sends them out.  In last week’s Gospel passage, Jesus actually told them to expect rejection.  But just in case we missed that part, it is made much more explicit today…This is not easy.  But easy is not what we were promised.

This story of John the Baptist calls us to have the courage to be truth tellers, to tell the truth that is God to everyone around us and to stand up for what is right, to speak out against injustices, and to boldly and with all our might dance to the music that God is playing for us. We have a tendency, though, to play it safe, keep our mouths shut, and work hard to avoid offending anyone or doing anything that might disturb the peace of our carefully-choreographed lives and our cautiously thought-out religion.  And, yes, speaking out may sometimes be uncomfortable; it may not win us any popularity contests; it may even mean that we are in many ways rejected from what we think is a normal way of being.  If we take the Gospel seriously, it means that we may no longer relax in our comfortable cheap seats and look for God to show up on cue but rather that we will have the courage to become holiness.

  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What does it mean for you to “stand up” for your beliefs, for the right thing?
  3. Do you have other ideas as to why this account is included?
  4. What does it mean for you to approach holiness?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God. (William Temple)

The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.  (William Sloane Coffin)


Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences. (Susan B. Anthony)




Dancing God, passionate leap of creative energy skipping among the stars, waltzing on rivers, birthing a universe.


Dancing God, tumbling from somewhere into Jewish territory, whirling Spirit seeding Mary’s womb with alluring divinity.


Dancing God, uncontainable grandeur, kicking and rolling in Mary’s flesh while untamed cousin echoes the dance in Aunt Elizabeth.


Dancing God, spark of angel’s song, shepherds hurrying like whirling dervishes gasping in awe at a surprising child.


Dancing God, still passionate today, dynamic movement of love wooing our hearts toward oneness and peace in a tear-stained world.


Dance on, Passionate God, we are your dance now. Teach us the tune, show us the steps. It is time to dance.


(Joyce Rupp, in Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season, P. 50-51)