My heart is with my siblings in Ukraine. Russia is attacking their home, starting a war during a global pandemic. I pray for their peace and protection. I mourn for the lives lost to the vanities of war and power’s greed. I pray that we will be able to see ourselves without either.
Masks on, masks off due to COVID-19, what this time in history has revealed about us as human beings. Still, I hear a voice calling me, calling us to a deeper sense of human being. For Christians, it is drawn from our baptismal identity, and I invite us to speak from this submerged place of belonging, from waters that drown out all other competing voices and their identities.
If we are to ever come alongside each other, we must first come inside, come home to ourselves. Yes, this is the “inward journey.” Howard Thurman writes,
“Whatever may be the occasion, there comes a deep necessity which leads you finally into the closet with yourself. It is here that you raise the real questions about yourself. The leading one is, What is it, after all, that I amount to, ultimately? Such a question cuts through all that is superficial and trivial in life to the very nerve center of yourself. And this is a religious question because it deals with the total meaning of life at its heart. At such a moment, and at such a time, you must discover for yourself what is the true basis of your self- respect.”
It is an invitation to be this body, his body, to embody his life here and now, to be the Word made flesh in our corner of the world. It is a chance to be a new body, no matter what the world believes about you.
It is an opportunity to live fully and not through one category or another. Just be one. Come alongside, Christ and his members and all other attachments come undone.
No strings to pull, no strings attached but instead, a deep unwinding. Rewinding time to take us back to the beginning when the waters hovered and created us out of the deep.
I am calling us back to the waters of baptism. It is womb water, our entry into new life with Jesus the Christ and an exit strategy. We must get back to the water and then go to deep end.
We had not been taught about the inwardness of religion that Howard Thurman wrote about in The Creative Encounter. He said, “There need not be only one single rebirth, but again and again a (person) may be reborn until at last, there is nothing that remains between (a person) and God.” Again and again, he says.
Baptism offers Christian believers an opportunity to see ourselves afresh, as the unsegregated body of Christ— identified fully without the labels of race, class, or gender. Fresh out of the water, we are joined as his members. Consequently, this calls into question the North American church’s alignment with race’s color- coded caste system and its socially upheld power differences.
Walter Brueggemann writes in A Way Other Than Our Own,
“For I believe the crisis in the U.S. Church has most nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence and part affluence.”
This watery grave is a dividing line. It is the place where we cross over to the other side. Its deep end is death. But without it, there is no new life. So, we grab a towel to go and die with Christ.
May we rise with new eyes, no longer to see each other as enemies but as next of kin. This is the way, the beginning of the undivided “kin- dom” that is coming.