UPDATE: New Year!
Happy New Year!
After a brief hiatus from the normal routines of GCW life, we are in full swing again. The ever-faithful Servants of Christ church of Gainesville provided a delicious meal on the first Sunday of the month, and the Just Faith group from St. Catherine’s of Jacksonville hosted the café this week. Our weekly scripture study begins this Tuesday and the Roundtable/Potluck on Thursday. And the Breakfast Brigade continues as always on Tuesday and Friday mornings before the crack of dawn. Click here for all the details.
We tried to set aside some time before the new year to reflect on the old one – not always an easy thing to do during the Christmas season with travel, family visits, and all the hoopla that surrounds Christmas. Earlier in the fall I had listened to an NPR interview with a young Jewish rabbi, Sharon Brous, and promised myself to take some time re-listening at the end of the year. In it she talked about leading her congregation through the Jewish High Holy Days. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and celebration of the “birthday of the creation of the world.” There is a prayer that is recited on the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur called the U’Nesaneh Tokef:
On Rosh Hashanah shall be written and on Yom Kippur shall be sealed
how many will pass from the world and how many will be created,
who will live and who will die,…
who by water, who by fire, who by sword, who by beast,
who by famine, and who by thirst…
Who will rest and who will wander…
who will become poor and who will become rich,
who will be lowered down and who will be lifted up.
This is how Sharon Brous, a young rabbi, described her understanding of the meaning of the New Year:
This is a moment when we celebrate the possibility of transformation, the possibility that every single one of us can be re-created. . . [a time] in which we identify that we have a real purpose and meaning in the world and that we can redirect our lives so that we’re actually responsively going after those priorities . . . We actually have the capacity to radically transform the way we understand our lives and the world. So really this is a moment of celebration.
She goes on to describe a way to celebrate, not in spite of life’s hard truths, but because of them:
Part of the challenge of high holy days is . . . to bring people to a momentary understanding of the fragility of life, to the recognition that they might not be here next year at this time, that the people they love most in the world might not be here . [The goal of our celebration] is to push people to confront that excruciating reality for just one moment, to recognize the tragedies that have struck us as individuals and as communities, as a nation and as a world, to be very present to the reality of loss and grief and death and then, holding that pain, to be able to dance – to be able to affirm the possibility of love, and renewed life, and renewed purpose. To really live with a sense of commitment and a sense of purpose. That’s something to dance about, I think, to be able to fully live in both those places at once.
I just love a prayer/poem that combines so well the seeming incongruent ideas of fate and chance and places it all under God. I love a theology that recognizes the power of God and also our power to “help” God by recognizing, caring about, and taking action against the tragedies and injustices of the world. We don’t know what the coming year will bring for ourselves or anyone else. But may we face it squarely and with the courageous honesty to see our own part in making the world what it is. May we live lives of understanding and deep commitment in 2008. And may we all dance. -Kelli