Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Preach One: This is My Beloved...

Saturday Morning at KKQ 2011, Holy Eucharist
Psalm 143:1-10, Matthew 3:13-17

When I was a high school senior trying to narrow down my college choices, I had several non-negotiable criteria.  A pretty campus.  Engaging people and classes.  No math.

Emory University met my needs perfectly.  It is indeed a beautiful campus, with lots of green spaces and white granite architecture and the most brilliant tulip beds I've ever seen.  I still treasure the friends I made there, and value the education I received.  And I never had to take math.

At Emory, at that time anyway, math and foreign languages were in the same category of core requirements, so that you could choose one over the other if you wished.  Three semesters of Spanish later, I met the requirement.

It turns out, though, that most everything I do in life involves a lot of math, and only un poco Espanol.  Priests have to do much more math than they tell you about in seminary - counting out communion wafers so that there's enough for everyone, but remembering that each wafer breaks into four pieces, and some people won't take communion, but some people will get their babies from the nursery...

Moms have to do more math than I realized, too.  I don't mean balancing checkbooks or counting coupons.  I mean math homework that your children really do differently than you ever learned how, so that all of a sudden your fourth grader knows more about percentages and probability than you do.

Knitters have to count stitches, consider multiples, and tally repeats.  Quilters have to measure and assemble geometric shapes.  Fabric and yarn are sold by yardage or weight, and you'd better count it right, or you are as likely to run out before the last row as I am to run out of communion wafers before the last pew.

Then again, if math is such an integral part of life, maybe I've been approaching it all wrong.  Perhaps math is not so much difficult as it is mysterious, a thing filled with wonder.  After all, math has a language and a poetry all its own.  It is full of patterns and rhythms and predictability, but it is also full of ideas and concepts that defy description, that surprise, that spark imagination.  Or what else are irrational numbers, inifinity, and pi, "that vague pipe dream that we've chased to 51 billion places and still don't know exactly" in the words of poet Michael Gillebeau.

Math's mysteries and patterns are part of us, at the core of who we are as people and as people of faith.  They are part of how we are marvelously made, and part of One in whose image we are made.  Or what else is the Trinity, three-in-one and one-in-three?  In the great mystery of how we are made and re-made, we in all our great diversity and variety become one body together in Christ, irretrievably bound together with him in baptism when we are marked as Christ's own forever and called to take up the pattern of his life.

Much of that pattern is quite visible to us, quite clear as we look at the way in which Jesus lived.  Seek.  Serve.  Persevere.  Proclaim.  Strive.  Love.  Care.  Embrace.  Give.  Other parts of the pattern are more mysterious, difficult to grasp with our human minds and hearts.  Love as Christ loved?  Can we?  And so we say at our baptisms, "I will, with God's help."

That's all God asks.  So it is in this season after Epiphany, as we recall Jesus' own baptism and the words God spoke on that day, we humbly hear the same words echoing in our own lives, for we are the body of Christ.  This is my child, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

1 comment:

Julie Nolte Owen said...

Perfect reflections for me as I prepare my knitting and math workshop for July. Like you, I chose my college with the same hope of avoiding any higher math requirements! Now, the fact that I'm teaching a workshop on knitting and math is one of those "mysteries of the universe!"