I went to Arlington Street Church (UU) with Jonah today. It actually felt a lot like church, which was a pleasant surprise, though I don't expect to go back with any regularity -- "I'm too Christian for [this] UU church," I kept telling people.
The pastor opened her sermon by telling the Jacob story I have recently become a big fan of [Velveteen Rabbi: "Dreams, vows, and changes (Radical Torah repost)" and "And God descended (Radical Torah repost)"]. She was just telling the story, not reading a full-out Bible translation (as far as I could tell), but it didn't feel excessively modern-language-ized (*cough*Glide*cough*). I was particularly struck by the phrasing, "He was terrified -- 'God is in this place and I knew it not.' "
Some stand-out lines from her sermon: "We dream of houses where heaven and earth meet ... we give gifts so others may live and so make heaven on earth." And a quote from George O'Dell about how we need community, including in times of temptation "to be recalled to our better selves."
She talked about Martin Luther King, Jr., and how he and the folks who worked with him went to church all the time. She talked about how after tragedy after tragedy, people instinctively went to church -- because "where else would we be?" The whole time she was talking about MLK I was having this cognitive disconnect of, "But his church was not your church -- he sought not just the 'beloved community' but God and Jesus."
I kept telling people, "I'm just here for today." One woman said, "Visiting from out of town?" and I laughed and said, "No, from out of church." With clear surprise, she said, "A lapsed UU?" Before I could say anything, Liz (who was our ASL interpreter at CWM) said, "No, a very faithful Methodist." I laughed and said, "Yes, among other denominations."
It was good to come "home" -- i.e., to CWM. Though L. came with me (we had our group project meeting in between my two rounds of church), so I found myself paying attention to how someone who didn't grow up Christian, doesn't self-identify as Christian, and has minimal experience in Christian worship services would experience the service (including how clear the printed bulletin is in indicated how/when we do things, which is something I haven't thought about in a long time because now that it's "home" I'm for the most part out of the habit of paying attention to how welcoming it is to newbies).
It was Baptism of Jesus Sunday [Mark 1:4-11]. Tiffany talked about how the next scene in Mark's narrative is Jesus' Temptation -- how Jesus was able to do all that he did because he understood his core identity as the beloved child of God. She talked about how we base our identities (and worth) on lots of things -- e.g., our jobs, our relationships, our materials possessions, what people say about us -- but that who we truly are at our core, what never changes, is that we are beloved children of God. She had us turn to our neighbor and say "You are the beloved child of God," and then "I am the beloved child of God" (with response: "Yes you are") and gave us "homework" to every day this week look at ourselves in the mirror (yes, you can put makeup on or whatever first if you want) and say, "I am the beloved child of God."
"You are a bright, brilliant, beloved child of God -- and you are beautiful to behold."
[sermon: blogpost version -- has some substantial differences from the version she preached tonight]
[I also recently read Jeremy's recent post about baptism, which I haven't processed sufficiently to have thoughts on.]
My housemate was just like, "Hey, did you see this post on the davis_square livejournal community?"