It was at a Black Lives Matter protest that I saw an image that struck me—one I knew I would not easily forget. I saw 2 women who wore the clergy collar participating in the protest. Their presence was felt and never questioned, yet they held the space in a way that stood out. They almost seemed to be in prayerful protest.
John’s Gospel has this really interesting scene in it that I managed to overlook for nearly 10 years of my life as a Christian. Maybe it was overlooked because of the translation I was using or because I just wasn’t in the right space to see this scene for what it really was, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I noticed the intimate moment between John and Jesus at the Last Supper.
“There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” – John 13:23
The scene is one of great tension. Jesus had just announced, from a place of feeling greatly troubled, that someone would betray him. There was a frenzy in that moment and most of the people around the table would likely have been in a place of panic, fear, or anger. Then there was John. In the midst of such a tense moment, when all his friends were being swept up in a frenzy, John rests his head on the chest of Jesus. He snuggles with Jesus!
In the Celtic tradition it is believed that when John rested his head on Jesus’ bosom, he would have heard the heartbeat of the One through whom all things come into being. This image is a powerful one for our lives. There will be moments that seem to draw out of us a frantic reaction. It is in those moments that John offers us the gift of a posture. There is little doubt that he would also have been worried, maybe even angry or frightened. But rather than seeking his grounding in the others around the table, he takes a posture of listening for the Heartbeat of God.
The women I saw at the Black Lives Matter protest embodied this posture. They were in the moment. They were present with their brothers and sisters advocating for true justice on behalf of our neighbors of color. But they were in that space, not with a posture of frantic reaction, but instead with a posture of grounded response—a posture of listening for the Heartbeat of God.
Most of us would see the importance of both Action and Contemplation—of Silence and Justice Work. What I love about the image of those women at the protest was that in them, Action and Contemplation danced. Two great streams converged and formed a mighty river that added something powerful to the impact of the moment. The strength of their presence was not one rooted in the shallow soil of fleeting passion but in the rich depth of God’s Heart, beating for justice.
Ben Edwards is a member of Celtic Way's Board of Directors. Read more about him here.