Shared by all
Sept. 10, Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18):
Draft text of the homily, it may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.
“Wherever two or three are gathered…”
That’s it. That’s all it takes. Just two or three (and Jesus in the midst…or Christ, or God in the midst…or the Divine presence…a higher power…however you define that mysterious and Holy reality). But that’s it…just two or three of us…and the Eternal Living Sacred. And a community is formed. From such small seeds…
This section of Matthew (that we sort of drop into the middle of here—that Gospel was like walking into the middle of a pretty intense conversation, wasn’t it?) Well, that conversation is all about community…It’s all about how we as disciples are supposed to get along with one another…how we are to live in community.
How we are to live in common.
Notice anything about those words? Community…common…communion…those words are all related…and all have the same root which literally means “shared by all” Which got me thinking…what is it that is shared by all? Not just by the people in this room…but by everyone? What do I have “in common” with you? What do we share with everyone else?
The specifics of this conversation Jesus is having with the disciples today give us a clue…
I recently finished reading Waking Up White, by Debby Irving (I commend it), and in it she tells a story of a school meeting where parents were asked to write down on a piece of paper “something that weighed on them daily but that they would not be comfortable sharing publicly within the school community.” The pieces of paper were then collected, passed back out at random, and read out (so the comments were completely anonymous). What do you imagine was written on those cards? What would you write, if you were asked: what is something that weighs on you daily, but you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing in public?”
Maybe some of you remember the video for the REM song “Everybody Hurts” where the camera pans over a group of people and their inner thoughts are shown on the screen. That’s what was on the cards. That’s what this exercise revealed.
“I’m worried about money.” “I feel too old to change careers and am unhappy with the one I’m in.” “I struggle with an eating disorder.” “My friend drinks too much. I’m afraid, and I don’t know what to do.” “I think I’m about to lose my job.” “I feel like I’m a terrible (friend, parent, child, fill in the blank).” “How am I going to manage this?”
No matter what our social status is. No matter what our stage in life. The one thing we all share is that we are broken…we hurt. We have good days and bad days…we all have worries…and we can all feel pretty powerless about any number of things that are happening in the world and in our lives. And we’re all trapped in certain ways of thinking and behaving…certain ways of interacting with those around us…And the reason Jesus gives us these very simple, and very good, steps for addressing hurts and wrongs…is that he knows that we’re going to need them.
He knows this about us. We’re hurt…and we are going to react out of that hurt place…we’re going to do things wrong. We are going to hurt one another…sometimes maliciously…but much maybe much more often inadvertently…without meaning to…maybe without even knowing that we’re doing it. We’re all going to be hurt, by things others have done, by things we have done, and by things left undone.
What we have in common…the one thing that is truly shared by all…is that everybody hurts.
And All Saints is a place where we can show that hurt—that common and shared weakness—to God. Where we can risk…giving it over to God….and where we can start to find some healing…and some hope.
Here we can risk being open (and it only takes a tiny opening) for God to get in and begin to work. That’s why we say that we all participate in the service…because even if you think you’re not doing anything…you think you’re just sitting and listening to me or to a hymn or an anthem…just settling into the quiet spaces we try to build in…you are actually participating if you allow yourself to be open (just a bit or quite a lot) to the transformative and healing power of God.
One of the thin spaces where I never fail to feel that divine presence slip into the cracks in my soul is in the simple act of receiving Communion. Opening and reaching out my hands…indicating that I am in need…that I can’t do this all by myself…that I lack something…a gift…that someone else has…and that’s all it takes…just that one, small gesture…for God to swoop in and fill that void…to feed that emptiness…to give me with the only thing that will fill that God-shaped hole in my heart. That can happen during Communion, or during an anthem, or a hymn, or at any time, really…any time you allow that crack in your soul to appear…”that’s how the light gets in.”
It doesn’t take much. Just a crack. Just two or three…and God.
It’s great to see many familiar faces…It’s wonderful to see a number of new faces. As we’re all welcomed into this new academic year…I think it’s worth reminding all of us that this is a place where you don’t have to be perfect. We will try our best to be open and inclusive, and welcoming of all, but we’ll get it wrong sometimes. We’ll try our best to value you more for who you are than for what you do…we’ll try to be clear that you are treasured for the gifts you bring to share more than anything you have or have not been able to accomplish in this life. We won’t always get it right. And when that happens, we have this really great process that Jesus outlines for restoring right relationship.
And as we continue this journey together, I’d encourage you to think about where else in your life is there a place like this? A place that takes seriously the problems and the reality of the world, and also offers sustenance and hope to carry on? A place where if you risk being just a little bit vulnerable with two or three others you’ll begin to discover that not only that’s is where your greatest strength lies, but also that just being a little bit open, and humble, there’s no limit to the transformations (in you and the world) that God can bring about.