Turning the kaleidoscope: finding grace in new perspectives
A homily for the Baptism of Jesus
Todays’s readings are from A Woman’s Lectionary for the Whole Church, Cycle W: Isaiah 16:1–5; Psalm 33:11–22; Ephesians 3:1–6; Luke 3:21.
Right before writing this homily, I saw a meme that said, “What a year this week has been.” I feel that.
I know that none of us delight in this situation of being Zoom-only (a decision made in response to rising Covid-19 cases and impact to our local hospitals & healthcare facilities). We are tired, we are heartbroken, we are all carrying our own concerns, losses, hopes, and griefs. Pandemic fatigue is real. Pains and struggles are stacked upon one another, even as joy breaks through in its various ways for each of us.
As a community, we are bereft of our dear Julie, who has been with BICC since the near beginning as our first music minister, and who yesterday passed from this life to the choir of angels. May her memory always be for a blessing, and may her close friends and family be comforted.
So when we listen to the Gospel today, what do we hear? Genealogy!
How many of you have tried reading the Bible, and arriving at lengthy genealogies, quickly scanned to the end? I confess, I always found them boring.
But as I prepared for today, I read this genealogy with so much appreciation. What a precious thing it is — a remembrance of all those who came before Jesus, who came before us. What a gift to be told that it matters not just that Jesus is the incarnate son of God through Mary, but that Jesus’ humanity and personhood are intimately connected with the special people whose lives and legends have been recorded through Hebrew Scripture. This is Jesus’ family tree.
And yet — for centuries, the Gospel of Luke has been proclaimed differently than what we heard today. Luke traced Jesus’ lineage back through men, entirely ignoring women. Our biblical translator and lectionary author for today has restored women to their rightful place, so we can see and hear a greater truth.
What you hear may be different than what I hear. How many times have you shared a memory, only to discover a sibling or friend remembers it completely differently?
Similarly, what strikes your soul as important for this moment may be unrelated to the call upon my heart, because we are each children of God, and we all have our own story and baptismal call to live out. One of the graces of our community is that it helps us practice unity while honoring our diversity!
One of the special things that happens through our liturgies, and especially our shared homilies, is that we can listen together and turn the kaleidoscope of God’s Good News in the light and share what we see. I think we’d all agree we are enriched and inspired by one another’s sharings. I’m inspired and motivated by each of you.
That’s why I have been so excited to implement Rev. Dr. Wilda Gafney’s lectionary readings in our liturgies. Because sometimes it takes another person shifting our vision to open us to grace. She is a womanist Hebrew scholar, and she has restored female presence in the Bible according to clues that have been historically ignored — in similar spirit, yet unique from our Catholic Comprehensive Lectionary.
For example, in Isaiah v. 3, the traditional translation adopted by the Catholic NRSV says:
“Give counsel, grant justice;
make your shade like night at the height of noon;
hide the outcasts, do not betray the fugitive;
let the outcasts of Moab settle among you.” (NRSV CE)
By comparison, Gafney points out that these verses are addressed to a “single female subject, likely daughter Zion.” That nuance is not recognized in the Catholic NRSV translation, and so readers are likely to presume a generic or male subject. Gafney also notes that the verb historically translated “to give” counsel actually means “to bring” or “to receive.” So she restores the text:
“Receive counsel, daughter; grant justice;
Make your shade like night at the midpoint of noon, daughter.
Daughter, shelter the outcasts, the fugitive do not expose.
Let them settle among you, daughter, the outcasts of Moab;
Be a shelter to them from the destroyer.” (Gafney, 51)
Do you hear the differences? When we interpret meaning from a certain perspective for centuries (or the course of our lives), it can take small epiphanies like this one to tilt the lens of our own looking glasses. How does meaning shift for us when we awaken to new clues?
Sometimes these “clues” come through our conversations with one another, the richness of our liturgy, the depths of our own prayers, and our commitment to transformation and unity with the Holy One who is ever present in our lives.
We all have so much happening around us. And yet, we can all only do what is ours to do, and we do that by listening to the call God places upon our own hearts through the virtue of our own Baptism. And we can bring our concerns to one another and pray for the Holy Spirit to wrap us in her wisdom — especially as we attend to information that may be new to us.
Sometimes that information is welcome, sometimes it creates a massive collision with all that we have previously understood.
But if we practice, and if we truly listen to the different stories around us — taking special notice of those that have been omitted or obscured — we can come closer to the vision of our Loving God who wants all her children to walk together in the ways of wholeness — to have pinnacle moments where the baptismal Spirit of God descends like a dove and reminds us: You are all my children, beloveds. With you I am well pleased.”
Along the way, and as we pray, may we receive counsel from our Loving God, may we grant justice; may we be a shelter to one another.
Now, let us hold a moment of silence, and then I welcome your reflections.
You might think about what helps you open your heart to new perspectives, or what stories you have of experiencing a change of heart after seeing something in a new way. Where is God in that process for you? How does holy listening relate to living your baptismal call?
What do you have to share today, friends?