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Rector's Reflection: Open, Not Empty, March 23, 2024

Beloved Members of St. Martin’s,


In the epistle we will hear after our Palm Procession this coming Sunday, we will hear St. Paul’s glorious “Kenosis Hymn” from the letter to the Church in Philippi.  In these verses, Paul speaks of Jesus “emptying himself” of all his rightful honor and glory due to him as the Son of God, and choosing to be born as one of us. The Greek term for emptying is “kenosis.” In Jesus, as Paul explains, one who was the greatest became a humble human, and not just a human but a peasant in the farthest, out-of-the-way occupied corner of a vast and relentless empire. Jesus faced rejection again and again, even to the point of being accused of being a rebel and blasphemer and dying for it.  Jesus lived out of a love that sustains the world, a love that challenges the calculus of exploitation and injustice, and that made him an enemy of the state and a threat to those who thought themselves righteous. Jesus did this so that we would know that God has experienced all our suffering, and stands in solidarity beside us. As his disciples, Jesus calls us to be brave enough to likewise empty ourselves—but in our case, what we are called to let go of is what SEPARATES us from each other, and from God. Now that can still be scary—in a time of crisis, the human tendency is to hold tighter to what we have, even if it’s really not good, rather than let go of the familiar. But what exactly is Jesus calling us to let go of and empty ourselves of? What does kenosis mean for us? Kenosis is emptying ourselves of our willfulness, all of our prerogatives for self- aggrandizement, in order to make room for the beauty of living from in truth, rather than self-delusion, to living for each other in unity rather than fear. That’s the foundation of discipleship—loving and embracing each other, creating the beloved community in which no one is an outcast. It’s opening ourselves to the possibility of love.  Kenosis is especially about emptying ourselves of our demands to always get what we want, when we want it—no matter the consequences. It’s about being willing to work for the collective good of your community, rather than standing on the sidelines, critiquing or complaining. It’s about living a life for others, as Jesus did, rather than living focused solely on your own demands. Our hearts are about the size of a fist, but a fist cannot take hold of the good. It’s only when our hearts are open that we feel the presence of God alongside us. Kenosis is not the terrifying emptiness of the wilderness, the emptiness of fear and scarcity that besets them and us as we long for proof that God is with us—it’s about making room. This emptiness we are called to embrace is to make room for God within us—so that we can never again wonder where God is, because God will dwell within us and guide us to a deeper faith and unity.


As we prepare to enter into Holy Week, may we open ourselves to see the wonders of God’s abiding concern for us, and reflect that concern into our relationships, with both beloved and with strangers.


In Christ,


Mother Leslie+


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