Seasons of Wonder
There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 1, scene 5
Welcome to January! January is named for Janus, a Roman god known for having two faces. One of Janus’s faces peered backward to the past, and the other looked forward to the future. Sculptures of Janus were often attached to gates, and like Janus, we are perched at the end of one year and at the beginning of another. What better time than now to think through some of the deep ideas and beliefs many of us hold? For this month, consider what it might mean to transcend dualities. That’s a very fancy phrase, so let’s simplify.
Right/wrong. Mind/body. Me/you. Male/female. Heads/tails. Tradition/change. Visible/invisible. These are just a few common examples of dualistic thinking, and many of us find ourselves deeply rooted in such either/or thinking. Some Christians even define themselves by asking dualistic questions like: What do you believe? What don’t you believe? Who is in our club? Who is out? What if, instead of centering Christianity around checklists of beliefs, we centered Christianity around the practice and ritual of gathering and celebrating together in hope, respect, and friendship?
Dualistic thinking burdens the imagination. Minds and systems constructed around dualistic thinking have prompted many to separate, fight, and be defensive instead of embracing the mystery, the wonder, and even the wildness that characterized Jesus’ life and teachings.
For example, ponder the parables Jesus used in his teachings; just when you think you might understand one, you realize you actually have no idea what the lesson is supposed to be and you find yourself back inside the mystery. Or, imagine Mary Magdalene’s eyes wide with wonder when she realized the stone at his tomb had been rolled away. And how wild it was when Jesus spit in the dirt and knelt down to make mud to rub in the eyes of that blind man he healed!
Leave good/bad, right/wrong, and us/them behind for the time being, and give your imagination permission to exist and to wander. Jesus taught mercy, grace, reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, hope, and love, and these radical ideas surmounted dualities like a January snowstorm overcomes the landscape.
♦ What if we embarked on this new year with a resolution not to settle for easy answers?
♦ What if we consider that being faithful is more about what we do than what we believe?
♦ What if we set aside those false choices that dualistic thinking forces us to make?
♦ What if a period of confusion can lead to a state of illumination?
January Creation Care Challenge: Enjoy your leftovers! All the time, energy, and resources it took to plant, grow, harvest, transport, purchase, and prepare the food is wasted when we don’t reuse. We all have leftovers after the holiday season, so get in the habit of eating leftovers regularly this month. You don’t necessarily have to rely on a recipe. Use your imagination, and challenge yourself to transform your leftovers into casseroles, salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, or soups.Week 1
Gather & Resolve
We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other.
A New Year’s Resolution: Welcome to this new year. Each family member gathered in this space is beloved by God. What if, at this special time each and every week this year, you resolved to look in the eyes of these people you hold dearest in this life and remind them of their belovedness? By spending this short amount of time together every week this year, you are transforming an ordinary meeting into a sacred gathering. You are blessing and consecrating one another by dwelling in God’s presence. Isn’t that a resolution worth keeping?
Resolve to gather weekly in the ardent hope that, by gathering, we will learn day by day to love each other more and more. Where shall we gather? At what time? What shall we wear? I recommend keeping everything as casual, fun, and simple as possible. Maybe someone will bring a snack, and maybe someone will light a candle. Think together about how and when your gatherings will occur. But most important, think together about the atmosphere you’d like to create during your gatherings of loved ones. One of my mentors says that when she gathers people together, she works hard to create environments where trust exists. Why? Because where there is trust, risk occurs. And when we feel free to take a risk, we are more likely to speak the wild truths that live deep in our hearts. May this weekly gathering become an ecosystem where you and your families can be real, can be vulnerable, and can dwell in the presence of God’s liberating love.
WONDER: What is something that makes you beautifully unique at the table? After you speak about yourself, go around again, and point out something about each other person at the table that you find uniquely beautiful. Listen, and let this discussion inspire you to proclaim something new you’d like to try to learn, do, or express as this year begins.
TRY: Use paper and markers to write a blessing that can begin each of your weekly gatherings this year. Find a way for everyone to contribute, and display your finished blessing nearby so you can say it together at the beginning of each weekly gathering. If you’d like an example, the template below might help:
We are gathered together at this table to______________.
We thank you for______________.
We praise you for______________.
We look to you for______________.
With joy and hope, we look forward to_________________.
Discover: The Way of Love
The Most Reverend Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, reminds us that in the first century, those who were followers of Jesus of Nazareth were not called “Christians.” They were called “followers of the Way.” Bishop Curry invites us all to nurture families and communities devoted to the liberating, life-giving love of Jesus by following these practices, or the Way of Love:
TURN: Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus
LEARN: Reflect on Scripture, especially Jesus’ life and teachings
PRAY: Dwell intentionally with God each day
WORSHIP: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and draw near to God
BLESS: Share faith and unselfishly give and serve
GO: Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus
REST: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration
You can find a wealth of resources on the Way of Love at episcopal church.org.
The Way of Love is an aspirational invitation. How might you and those you love respond?
The Magi were overwhelmed with wonder and joy when they found baby Jesus after following a star. The Christian calendar commemorates their visit on January 6 with the Feast of Epiphany. Traditionally, Christmas decorations are left up until the Eve of Epiphany (or Twelfth Night).
Celebrate Epiphany together by chalking your door, building a fire, and hosting a Twelfth Night party. Chalk the door above the main entrance to your home on Epiphany with a blessing and as a way to commemorate the hospitality Mary and Joseph showed to the three kings. Use chalk to write, for example, the pattern “20+C+M+B+23.” The first and last numbers stand for the year (i.e., 2023), the crosses stand for Jesus, and the letters stand for the Latin blessing Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ bless this home), as well as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar—the names of the Magi. Learn about the Magi’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, of course, was a gift for a king. Frankincense is derived from the Boswellia tree and promotes a feeling of relaxation and well-being. Traditionally used in prayer and meditation, frankincense has strong healing and cleansing properties; see page 33 to learn how to make candles infused with frankincense. My friend Jen makes a soothing body butter using frankincense because it is known to calm inflamed skin, as well as alleviate feelings of grief, lonelinesss, and anxiety. Myrrh is a resin extracted from thorny Commiphora trees, and was and is extremely valuable. Myrrh was an oil used for purification rituals and to anoint bodies, including Jesus’, at burial.