Sunday, May 31, 2015

Feast Day of the Visitation

Today is the Feast of the Visitation, a church festival day which has only recently become important to me.  This feast day celebrates the time that Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  Both women are pregnant in miraculous ways:  Mary hasn't had sex, and Elizabeth is beyond her fertile years.  Yet both are pregnant.  Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist, and Mary will give birth to Jesus. For a more theological consideration of this day, see this post that I wrote for the Living Lutheran site.

In the churches of my younger years, we never celebrated feast days.  What a loss.  I love this additional calendar that circles through the year, this calendar that reminds us of what ordinary people can do.

I also find these days inspiring in so many ways. Over at my creativity blog, I wrote a post about how this feast day speaks to us as we work on our creative projects.  It should also speak to us as we think about our lives as the Church.

We live in a culture that is fond of telling us how insignificant we are, both as individuals and as the Church.  We live in a culture that wants us to feel inadequate so that we can be sold something.  We're told that no one goes to church anymore.  We're told that only a few churches are big enough to matter.

Well, that's simply not true.  History is full of small groups making a huge difference:  I'd point to the Civil Rights Movement as the most famous.

Here in South Florida, we've just enjoyed a win that you won't hear of in the national media--or even the local media.  Our Bold Justice group just sent this update: "Governor Scott recently signed SB 378 into law.  Through a grassroots organizing we successfully changed the system at a state level in a way that will potentially impact thousands of people. Law enforcement now has the authority to offer up to 3 civil citations to the same individual."

We've been working for over a year so that juveniles who commit non-violent crimes get a civil citation, not an arrest.  A civil citation might require some community service or some other learning component.  But most importantly, a youthful goofy mistake, like throwing rocks through the window of an abandoned building or skipping school, won't wreck their chances at having a career or a path to college, the way that an arrest so often does.

We did this as a coalition of churches who met regularly.  Most of us are small, but together, we're more than capable.  The Feast of the Visitation reminds us that God often works through the small., through the ones who are at the edges of their culture, not the ones at the center. 

This feast day also reminds us of the value of retreat.  Mary and Elizabeth take time to be away, but to be away together.  They have found each other as fellow travelers, as they take similar journeys through very unusual territory.  That sounds like a great definition of Church to me.

This morning, I'm feeling most inspired by the possibility of the impossible.  The world tells us that so much of what we desire is just not possible.  Even churches hear this message that we will never attract the next generation, that we don't have enough money, that we can't have an impact, that our dreams of social justice will never come true--in short, we live in a culture that tells us we are doomed.  We swim in these seas, and it's hard to avoid the pollution.

 Along comes this feast day which proclaims that the not only is the impossible possible, but the impossible is already incubating in an unlikely womb. It's much too easy for any of us to say, "Who am I to think that I can do this?"  The good news of this feast day is that I don't have to be the perfect one for the task.  By saying yes, I have made myself the perfect one.

Today, on this Feast Day of the Visitation, let's remember that God's dream is bigger than anything that the world can offer us.  Let us return to those dreams and look for the ways that we can say yes.

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