Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back..."

Once upon a time, there was a young woman.

One day, she left the town she had been living in, and she traveled to the river at the edge of the wilderness -- that place where civilization and wilderness meet -- where her cousin had been baptizing people.

And her cousin said, "I can't baptize you! You are the one we've been waiting for."

("Shhh...," the air whispered. "We are all the ones we have been waiting for. The realm of God is within you."

But that is another story for another time.)

She said, "No, cousin, you must baptize me. For today I am beginning the work I have been called to do."

And so her cousin baptized her, and as she rose up out of the water, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove, resting on her shoulders, enveloping her, and said, "This is my Beloved, with whom I am well-pleased."

And the Spirit of God hugged her tightly and kissed her like a parent sending their child off, and the young woman traveled further away from the town she had lived in, through the wilderness and into the desert. And she neither ate nor drank, and some of us might call her journey a vision quest. Whatever it was, she was tempted mightily.

Out there in the desert, the rocks shimmering in the heat looked like they could be cakes of bread, and she knew somehow that if she wished it, she could make those stones into bread. But she remembered the teachings of her youth, and she said the words aloud, like honey on her tongue -- though they tasted sour in her stomach.

Sitting on a tall mountain, her stomach still empty, looking out over the places she had traveled through, out over the river where her cousin continued to baptize, out over the town where she had lived, out over other towns she had visited and towns she had never visited, she felt as if she could rule over them all, as if she need only say the word and they would be handed over to her power. But she knew that was not the power she was meant for, knew that taking that power would be giving herself over to another Power altogether, and again she quoted the teachings of her youth, trying to keep her voice strong, imagining as she spoke into the emptiness that the sounds floated over all that she saw, even as tears filled her eyes.

And then she imagined herself at the very pinnacle of the Temple, and she imagined what it would be like to fall off. Surely the God who loved her, who had birthed her, who had called her, wouldn't let her die? Surely she could find some rest. And all the teachings of her youth about God's protection danced at the edge of her consciousness; she could see the words dancing at the edge of her vision even as she felt like she might black out. But she knew that those were not the teachings for this moment. And she remembered who she was and Whose she was, and she whispered, "Into Your hands, I commend my spirit," and she passed out.

And when she came to, she was surrounded by good angels who gave her food and drink and shelter and rest. And after she had recovered, she went on and began her ministry.


At Savor tonight, Rev. Jeff M. told an abbreviated version of the Baptism/Temptation story that opens Jesus' public ministry in the Gospels. He invited us to tell the story in our own way. My best friend is the one with poetry in hir soul, but apparently it's catching?

[Blogpost title is a line that didn't make it into my story but which is from Sydney Carter's "Lord of the Dance."]