Have you ever thought to yourself, I am invisible? Well, to be honest I have my days when I think only God sees me. I have moments when I wonder if anybody reads what I write or even has an interest… So a few weeks back I google-d myself and this is the most interesting thing that I found:
|Sermon, October 7, 2012 – We Are In This Together|
WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER!
(Preached on Sunday, October 7, 2012)
God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone: I’ll make him a helper, a companion.” -Genesis 2:18
A nurse escorted a tired, anxious young man to the bedside of an elderly man. “Your son is here,” she whispered in the ear of the patient. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened. He was heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack and he dimly saw the young man standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand and the young man tightly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing a message of encouragement. The nurse brought a chair next to the bed for the young man to sit down. All through the night the young man sat holding the old man’s hand, and offering gentle words of hope. The dying man said nothing as he held on tightly. As dawn approached, the patient died. The young man gently released the lifeless hand and went to notify the nurse. “Who was that man?” he asked. The startled nurse replied, “I thought he was your father!” “No, he was not my father, I never saw him before.” “Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” asked the nurse. “He needed his son. When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, I knew how much he needed me.”
Jean Vanier, founder of the l’Arche communities for mentally and emotionally challenged people, once observed, “There are times when together we discover that we make up a single body, that we belong to each other and that God has called us to be together as a source of life for each other.” This was the purpose of our creation. This is why Jesus called into being a community around himself and why the Holy Spirit brought into being the Church. But it is not just the purpose of the creation of the Christian community. It is the purpose for the creation of human beings themselves.
Stories are the ways ancient people explained things. The modern scientific approach to explaining something is to analyze it, break it down to its component parts, look for the lowest common denominator, and reduce it to its prime state. There is nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, we have made marvelous strides in understanding the universe around us through our scientific inquiry. But it is not the only way to understand the world and sometimes a story can go to the heart of the matter and touch us on deeper levels, truly illuminating without explaining the details. Stories often communicate truth, which analysis overlooks or destroys in the process. (It is the difference between dissecting a frog and studying a living frog by observation.)
The passage we read from Genesis 2 this morning is such a story. One truth this story seeks to convey is that human beings were created for companionship. “It is not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion,” said God. To be human is to be in relationship. It is to be with and for another. God recognizes that the human being needs a partner, a helper, a companion. To be fully human entails more than sovereignty over the animals or the instinctive ties of blood and family. It requires a relationship like no other, an intimate connection, not bound by biology or any other law. That connection makes the world meaningful and holy. It makes us human.
Originally God created us to be in companionship with God. The great African-American preacher, James Weldon Johnson, captured this desire by God beautifully in his sermon-poem titled “The Creation.” It begins like this:
And God stepped out on space, And he looked around and said: I’m lonely –I’ll make me a world.
It goes on to describe God creating the sun, moon and stars, the earth, oceans, plants and animals. And it was all good, but God was lonely still. Finally, God decided to make a human being. Johnson describes that in these words:
Up from the bed of the river God scooped the clay; And by the bank of the river He kneeled him down; And there the great God Almighty Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky, Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night, Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand; This Great God, Like a mammy bending over her baby, Kneeled down in the dust Toiling over a lump of clay Till he shaped it in his own image;…
What a picture, capturing God’s great desire for companionship. But true companionship, true community, can only be formed between equals. The animals God created to be helpers, as marvelous and loving as they are, cannot fully be companions, for they are not on the same level with us. And God cannot fully provide companionship, as wonderful as the close, intimate relationship we can have through our spiritual connection, for we are not on the same level with God. We can be in relationship with our animal friends and with God, but we cannot be fully equal partners and companions for we are not “bone of bone, and flesh of flesh” with either God or the animals.
The need for full intimacy, companionship, and community is in our DNA as human beings. It is a core element of what it means to be human. It is also a core element of what it means to be Church.
Part of our struggle in the world today is with our sense of diversity and difference – the sense that we are not the same, that we are more different than similar. This makes it difficult for us to connect with one another. We focus on our differences which leads us into conflict rather than toward greater community. But the truth is, we are more alike than we are different. We are more connected than separate. We are truly all in this thing called life together!
Elivette Mendez Angulo, a UCC seminary student, reflects on the poem “Child of the Americas” by Aurora Levins Morales that it expresses who she is, but only in part. The poem states:
I am a child of the Americas …
a child of many diasopora,
born into this continent at a crossroads…
I am Caribena, island grown.
Spanish is in my flesh, the singing in my poetry, the flying gestures of my hands.
I am Latinoamerica, rooted in the history of my continent: I speak from that body.
I am not african. Africa is in me, but I cannot return.
I am not taina. Taino is in me, but there is no way back.
I am not european. Europe lives in me, but I have no home there.
I am new. History made me.
My first language was spanglish.
I was born at the crossroads and I am whole.
She goes on to adapt the poem to herself, acknowledging that she is more than her ethnic makeup. According [to] the Bible, she is no longer on the outskirts looking in. She is a member of GOD’s household.
I am a child of the diaspora, born into this religiosity at a crossroads…
I am roman catholic by inheritance and tradition; I am Lutheran by baptism
And by my heart’s choice and God’s leading, I am UCC. I fit.
I am only me and I know that I am taina and african and european
they are not mutually exclusive they are intertwined and merged and united
I am only me and I know that (for me)
being ucc means I am Christian, love GOD, and walk towards God’s purpose
they are not mutually exclusive or inclusive they are intertwined and merged some would say
united in and by Christ’s love.
When I read this I realized how true this is for all of us.
None of us is as pure as we believe ourselves to be. I know I was born in this land; but my roots go back to Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, England, Armenia, and part of me includes the Native people we call Indian. I was born and baptized Southern Baptist, educated Presbyterian, but I am UCC by calling and choice.
We are all far more connected than we realize or admit. But even more than that, we are all more than just race or creed or color of skin. We are all loved by an all-powerful God who knows who we really are. And as members of God’s family, we are God’s children. This is the community created by our baptism and our membership in the church. This is why we are here. For this we were created: to be in community, to be in relationship. It is not a perfect reality. Like families, churches are imperfect. There is no church where everyone agrees on the style of worship, or the songs to sing, or with the Pastor 100% of the time. Fortunately, the church was not called to be perfect; it was called to be a family. As such, we bicker, we pout, we hurt, like all families do – but on Sunday, we all gather around the Table to each the common loaf of bread and drink from the common cup of the fruit of the vine. As we do we remember that Christ unites us. Even though we disagree, we share in communion, and we strengthen the bonds between us. We hold each other up in prayer while holding up Jesus as the example for our lives and our relationships. We are created for companionship. None of us has to, or can, go it alone. We are in this together.