Throughout this month I have been paying close attention to the world around me. Noticing small changes, and large changes… in the trees, bushes, grass, flowers, wildlife. I am in awe of Spring as this area of our Earth awakens from her Winter slumber. Early one evening we had seven very large deer grazing in our back yard. (I missed this awe-filled moment, but my beloved captured it.)
On one of our evening walks, I spotted a very small snake coiled in the street. He was upside down. He was permanently preserved in this beautiful coil. As I gently turned him over he seemed in perfect condition. I gently nudged him to the side so his little body would not be further damaged by human machines. I said a silent blessing for his short life: Namaste.
Namaste is a concept, a greeting, a way of life that comes to us from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. It is the essence of living with reverence … to honor the divine in the other. Living with reverence calls me to seek the divine in all living things. This is not easy. The dead snake was not hard to honor, and even if it were alive it would be easy … I like snakes. I don’t like palmetto bugs and I have a long way to go to see the divine in them. Puppies… no problem. Mosquitoes… I see no purpose in them. And so it is with the two-leggeds as well. Dogwoods in bloom… Yes! Dollar-weed returning to consume my yard… Ugh! I’m a work in progress as I learn to appreciate the worth of all life.
And then there are people… politicians, pundits, people on this side and that side. Seeing the divine, the inherent worth and dignity, in every person challenges me… as it should. It’s easy to see the spark of the divine in the newborn baby, or the dying nonagenarian. As I look out upon the congregation on Sunday morning the room is glowing with all the divine sparks filling that space.
Yet I know as our congregation takes on the huge vision of becoming a radically welcoming sanctuary, we, I, all of us, will be challenged to open our hearts and our doors wider. While we will certainly seek the divine spark in each person, we will also need to see our own culture more clearly and the ways in which it makes it hard for people to be authentic within our spaces. We’ll need to identify our hidden biases, and overcome some of our more overt assumptions so each person can be fully appreciated for who they are and where they are in their lives and in their spiritual journeys. We will be challenged to be fully welcoming as we also remember that we share clear core values that define us as a religious community.
It is very easy to place my fingertips and palms together, hold them to my heart, and bow as I say, “Namaste.” But to do so authentically and with true reverence, I must challenge myself to draw the circle wider, then draw it wider still … to include all people, all beings, all life … to keep my own divine spark glowing strong.