Ingathering Again

Please visit our YouTube channel to watch Rev. Ann Marie’s video recording of this reflection.

Imagine all the people living in peace. You may say I am a dreamer….

Let’s imagine that this congregational year, the one that begins in earnest today, is like a river that eventually flows to the ocean. The river began somewhere, perhaps as a spring that bubbled up in a field. Eventually, enough water came to the surface to begin to push the dirt and foliage out of the way, so the water could begin its long flow to the ocean. The river found its way by digging an ever-deeper channel. That channel allowed the spring that had been just a bubble of water that had made its way to the surface to become a trickle, then creek, then a river. The river contains water from the original spring, from rains, and perhaps from other creeks and streams. 

This congregation is like a river. Some of you can still remember or even some of you can look in the mirror and see those folks that were part of the original spring who came together and pushed whatever was in the way to the side to make way for the creek, and then the stream that became the river. Now we are the river.

This month the theme is Imagination. That theme, we will be using to deepen our reflections in worship, to stimulate you to reflect mid-week with posts shared on social media. It is fitting that it is with imagination that we start this “church” year. It is fitting that we bring so many images and word pictures about water this day. We could easily believe this little river could someday be mighty enough to flow to the ocean.

Yet sometimes, streams and even rivers get clogged up with stones and sticks, and the water is not strong enough to move the debris out of the way. Sometimes, streams and even rivers just dry up. Sometimes, too much rain comes and streams and even rivers overflow their channels and never finish their journey to the sea.

If you can imagine that this congregation is a river, then take the words from the poet Clarissa Pinkola Estés to heart.

Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.

Are you willing to engage in the creative process of your imagination let loose? Are you willing to let the stream of your imagination rain down like a river? If so, is it wise to pretend you know little to nothing about how to “do church?”

In this time of COVID-19, it is likely more productive to be “stone stupid,” to not think we know what to do. To instead not do what we have always done, not long to return to what we have always believed would work… to instead sit on the throne of the most unlikely ride, the animal who will not run when fearful, the jackass, and be the fool who spills jewels, letting anything come without prejudgment.

This is the month to dare to be what we haven’t been yet. To say yes to all creative ideas. To take the comfort, the challenge, the stillness, the frightening rush of all the waters we have known and live into the paradox that there can be so much variation.

Lord, we need it. We need to imagine all people (all different) living in peace. WE need to love radically: those like us, those so different from “us,”  until there is no “us.” We need to love our siblings so much that we always ask “what would love do?” before judging, before speaking, before dismissing; suspending all censoring. We need to find a way to quiet our fears and listen intently to the pain, and to repeat and repeat and repeat our gratitude to be alive, to be loved, to be able to love. Because when the fires come, when the floods arrive, when those who are starving and sick arrive at our door, we must be glad to see them, to serve, to shelter, to offer sustenance, and to heal each other. 

There is so much to worry about. What plague, what pestilence, what apocalyptic disaster will be next?

It is too late to worry. It is too late to go back. We are in this now. We are the river and we are on our way.

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