Years ago, when I was still working in parish ministry, there was a moment in our “Sunday School” program that has left a lasting mark on my faith. (Why is it that so many of those wonderful moments come as we listen to the children?) Our Christian Education Director, Susan Chesley, was teaching about the Baptism of Jesus…the way we often do as we begin the season of Epiphany. In detail, she described Jesus going to John in the desert – along with so many other people who were followers of John the Baptist – to be baptized. And…like most good teachers…Susan asked a question. “What does John the Baptist want you to do with your life?” And up goes a hand. An earnest young boy eagerly responds…”THE HOKEY POKEY!” Deep breath. And Susan says, “Tell me what you mean by that, Charles?” And the whole class responds – in unison – “YOU TURN YOUR LIFE AROUND!”
OK. Lesson learned! Class over! Once again, the children have become the teachers!
Unfortunately, this is a hard lesson for us adults to really begin to live. Life is serious business, not some kid’s dancing game. Or….maybe not. Just imagine! What would it look like for people of faith to dance together through the season of Epiphany – joining our hands in a circle and turning our lives around?
For one thing, I think there would be more people smiling and laughing at church! But, seriously, if we really took to heart John the Baptist’s invitation to do the Hokey Pokey and turn our lives around, what would the world look like? I think there would be less finger-pointing and more listening. There would be less blaming and more forgiving. There would be less certainty and more open honest questioning. There would be less time sitting in front of the TV and more time reading with kids who might need a little help. There would be fewer gated communities and more kind-hearted neighborliness. There would be less fear-based behavior and more courageous, forward-looking action. We might let go of the pontificating that is associated with the issue of climate change and get down to the hard work of doing what we can to actually preserve life on this planet. We might begin to engage the justice issues of our day – racism, economic fairness, homophobia, immigration issues (to name a few). You can add to that vision, I’m sure.
If we each picked just one thing – the world would be a better place. If we each picked just one thing – our faith communities would be stronger as we join hands in a dance that twirls us all around into a new way of living and being. So. What DOES John the Baptist want us to do with our lives in this season of Epiphany that celebrates the light of Christ coming into the world? THE HOKEY POKEY! Come join the dance!
Katherine Mulhern, 2030 Iowa Program Support/Adjunct