The Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom
Oh, dear ones. We are entering the holiday season, always complicated, in the midst of post-election grief. I notice anxiety, anger, and sorrow tick-tocking its way through my own body as it also moves through the body politic.
The Sufi teacher and poet Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi wrote,
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes As an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably…”
Being fully present to each new “guest” every morning is requiring my energy and attention, but I know it is necessary if I have any hope of being present to others and to what is happening in the world. I am not at the point of welcoming each new emotion, but I do recognize they each have lessons to teach me, so I am working to be present to all that arrives and arises.
In the Christian tradition, this is the season of incarnation, when the divine combines with flesh to become human and sacred at once. It is the season of recognizing that god is not “out there” somewhere, removed and disinterested, but here on earth, in history, in humanity, in this time. Being present here and now can open us to the divine spark in each human heart, as well as to the sacred connections among us. We need to remember the good within and among us now, and ground ourselves in it.
This is also the season of the longest, darkest night of the year in the Northern hemisphere, the season when people put up lights and leave candles in their windows to brighten the long night and its toll on our souls. The long dark night can be hard on the soul, even as it offers the gift of reflection and rest. How can we learn to accept the gifts of the night, while also tending to the parts of us that are afraid of the dark?
The long dark night can be hard on the soul, even as it offers the gift of reflection and rest.
This month, we are going to talk about lighting the fire in our own souls, following our burning desire for justice, and what it means to be awake and alive at this moment in history. We are poised between the past and the future here at church, in this year of our 175th Anniversary and the first year of a new Senior Minister. We are also teetering between history and hope in our country. This is the time to recommit ourselves to our faith, to our church, and to liberal religion. We need the church of the free out in the public square right now, just as we need each other and our spiritual practice. I hope you will join us in the 175th Anniversary Campaign to Ignite the Future (see Cheri Taylor’s article for more information on how to participate.)
Take courage, friends: pull your people close this month. Let us stand around the fire, tell each other stories, warm our hands, and plot the future together.
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee is a home for spiritual community, social justice, and intellectual freedom, active in Milwaukee since 1842. Unitarian Universalism is an inclusive denomination; core principles include recognition of the worth and dignity of every person; respect for the interdependent web of existence; and the goal of world peace, liberty and justice.
The Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom is First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee’s Senior Minister. Jennifer is primarily responsible for worship, mission, vision, leadership, prophetic witness, and congregational systems. She is also head of staff at First Church.