Re-Membering Our One Body
January 27, 2019
Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19: 8,9,10,15
"Today the scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing"...
I don't know about you, but if I was sitting in that synagogue (not that I would have been able to say anything as a woman), I would have thought to myself "Who does this guy think he is? Seems like a pretty cocky and bold statement to me...'scripture being fulfilled in him.'"
How did he say this? And not just to anyone, but to the people of his home town, the people who saw him through every human year growing up, including those pesky hormonal teenage years we conveniently know nothing about.
It seems to me that the only way that it was possible for Jesus to feel so confident in his calling, would be through community. Deep communion with the Holy Spirit and his Abba gave him the confidence to name and be certain of his calling to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free. Even in the times he must have been uncertain of this call, he could rely on the certainty of his Abba and that love/spirit between them, not to mention the support and sense of belonging he received from his family. You don't grow up with a Mama who said the words of the Magnificat and not learn at least some sense of your call.
I know this to be true of my own journey, that even in the times of doubt when I don't and can't seem to see the goodness and giftedness in myself, I rely on my trust in those who love me and can see it.
That context of belonging is the only way we can be certain of our gifts and calls, our place within the body. It transforms us from being prideful, confused, stunted to having room to flourish within the knowing of our place in the body.
It calls to mind our dear friend Jimmy who radiates within his absolute certainty of his place in our community as prayer warrior.
Also makes me think of David Hilfiker jokingly says "Who calls themselves a prophet?" but who I hope finds confidence through community's confirmation of that gift.
The scripture is fulfilled in and through each of us. How is it fulfilled in you?
Now ever since I was a child, I loved this passage from Corinthians. Uff, it made something in my heart settle to know we all had a place within the body. Plus, I liked to imagine myself as a pinkie finger. There is a freedom and peace in knowing we're not responsible for being all things to all people, but rather to grow magnanimous within our deepest selves.
When I hear the reading from Corinthians, not that anyone here would be surprised, but it makes me think of L'Arche. What a broken place, and yet what a place of blazing hope. I think this scripture could be the L'Arche anthem: "indeed the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary"
L'Arche for those of you who don't know, is a community that places people with intellectual disabilities at the center as our teachers. Jean Vanier, the founder of the community, refers to L'Arche as a school of the heart.
The thing is that this isn't just a "nice thing to do." I believe it's an absolutely necessary thing to do. We need one another. Without each member of the body being valued, respected, listened to, we are a mangled and incomplete body with ghost limbs -dismembered if you will.
I have been deep in a learning time for the past, say, nine months or so. Specifically, a time of learning about my neediness, creatureliness and dependency. Now this is not something that comes easily to me, as I suspect it doesn't for many people. I would describe myself as independent and stubborn (or "persistent" when I feel like putting a positive spin on it). My siblings who are here today can attest to that. I learned to tie my own shoes at 2 and I've never looked back. As a peacemaker within the family, I made sure to take care of myself and not cause problems or need help.
Now, fast forward to my waddling self today... I don't have the luxury of "not needing." I need in so many ways… constantly. I turn into a sad and angry gremlin if I haven't eaten in more than two hours. I fall asleep when I don't want to and can't seem to fall asleep when I do want to. I'm dependent on others generosity for a home to live in, for financial support, sometimes even help taking off my shoes when I can't seem to reach. And even though I don't hate being told I'm glowing, pregnancy isn't a glamorous thing.
This discovery and movement towards acceptance of my creaturliness has been difficult.
My greatest teacher and accompanier on this journey has been my soul friend Walton Miguel Schofield. Many of you have heard stories of Waltico, who passed away a year ago. Walton was a core member in L'Arche, and was highly dependent on people for nearly every part of his daily life from bathing to eating. Walton was and is one of the strongest people I know. He carried a deep inner strength. There was something kingly about him. When we would be at a doctor's appointment together and they would need to draw his blood (which he hated because it usually took several failed tries) he would consistently say "Soy valiente" once he was done. "I am valiant." And it was absolutely true. When I spend time in prayer with Walton, I can't help but come face to face with the paradox that if I see Walton as this strong person, not made any less strong because of his need for help, why can't I see myself in the same light?
I need Walton as a teacher. He is an essential part of the body without which I would be guideless on my own journey. He teaches me about my own place of belonging within the body, and the beauty of being a member dependent on the other parts of the body. Teaches me how to stand as creature before Creator. Walton was stronger because he understood his need for the other parts of the body. What part of our own creatureliness and dependency do we need to accept in order to make space for new life? I think sometimes we hear this Corinthians reading like those people in the reading from Nehemiah. "All the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law." We become overwhelmed and sometimes paralyzed with the sense of uncertainty in our call. "I don't know what my place is in the body!" Yet we're encouraged to rejoice. "Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength." The psalm tells us "your words, lord, are spirit and life." And not just to rejoice, but to rejoice together as a body. In rejoicing, encouraging, seeing and naming the light in each other, we can move past the paralysis to become a more complete body. I think of our camp meetings. I think of Dottie always encouraging a party. I think of our mission groups fostering the intimate relationships that allow for confidence in call.
The scripture from Corinthians also tells us to mourn together. These past few years of turmoil in our country gives us the unique opportunity to mourn together in a new way. It's brought about a time of storytelling across margins to share in each other's suffering. It calls to mind Dave McMillian's naming during the time of gratitudes a few months ago that he was grateful he was able to cry about the migrant families being separated. It is imperative that we are affected by one another. While still being aware of our unique place, we need to see our connectivity. That praying for Jenny's friend Bernadette of the Gwich'in in the Arctic affects us here on Columbia Rd in Washington DC.
I want to leave us with some questions (feel free to settle in and close your eyes):
What helps you to become aware of your place of belonging within the body? Who are the people who give you confidence in your call? When was the last time you rejoiced in community? When was the last time you mourned in community?
Beautiful Creator of this one body, thank you for living and breathing through us. Help us to honor and value each member. Help us to be aware of the forgotten or ignored pieces within ourselves. Give us the courage to rejoice and mourn together. Your words are spirit and life. Let us breathe them in.