From the outside looking in, the religious life seems otherworldly and impractical, concerned with “what once was” or “what will be, ” and Paradise lost either in a fairy-tale garden to which we’ll never return, or gated in Heaven, which we’ll never attain. These are stereotypes of a shallow piety, yet even here I’ll sometimes speak about the necessity of “bifocal vision, ” and our call, as religious liberals, to dwell at once in two places: both in the world as it is—desecrated and despoiled— and as it yet can be: fair and just, beautiful and green, the hardearned and well-served home of a beloved global community of wise, compassionate people. We live, always, in both “the now and the not-yet, ” with our feet planted in the land of “what is” and our hearts in the land of “what could/should/shall be. ” That is the religious life, that practice of radical analysis and radical faithfulness, that practice of radical hope, whether orthodox or Unitarian Universalist.
This month’s theme challenges us to dwell in just one place at once, to look no further than the here-and-now for beauty, truth, and love, to find precisely amid the rubble and the heartbreak of our lives, and in the broken world, whatever hope and holiness we need. Immanence refers to that which is hidden in plain sight, the sadness and the loveliness of the ordinary world, our ordinary lives, and the extraordinary love and courage of which each of us is made. At this time of year, old stories of the season, religious stories, remind us more than ever: the Exodus from despair to liberation begins exactly now; the Resurrection of the weary spirit is a choice, not an event; and lo! – the earth awakes again, even in mud season, right before our eyes. To notice and say yes is an act of blessing; it is holy, revolutionary work. It is the most ordinary magic.
-Rev. Victoria Safford