Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Village people

1 Corinthians 12: 12-27
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
May 17, 2015

         I’ve started making a habit of having lunch at Klondike Kate’s on Wednesdays.  It’s half-price sandwiches and salads. I sit at the bar, so as not to take up a table.  The bartender, Andy, always wears Red Sox cap, so of course we struck up a conversation.  He’s from the Boston area and still has a touch of the accent.  It turns out his wife is from Danbury, CT, so he knows where Monroe is, my former town.

        A couple of Wednesdays ago I came in for lunch as usual.  I chat up Andy about the changes going on at the empty Mojo Main down the street.  I say, “It’s going to be a craft beer hub, with over a hundred different kinds of beer.  I saw an article about it this morning in the News Journal”. 

 A gentleman sitting a few feet away says, “That’s me.  That’s me and my partner.  We’re doing that.”  Andy turns toward him, “Really?  What a coincidence.”  The man, whose name is Jim, says, “Yeah.  Hey, nice Red Sox cap.  You from the Boston area?” 

 Andy says, “Yeah.  You?”  “Yeah, I’m from Taunton.”  I pipe up, “I know where Taunton is.”  Andy gestures toward me and says, “Yeah, her too.”  “Oh yeah?  Where?”  “Marshfield”.  “Oh yeah.  Actually, I’m from Raynham but usually nobody knows where that is.”  By the way, both Taunton and Raynham are not far away from Rehoboth…Massachusetts, that is.

        I’ve been reading the teaser messages on the marquee in front of Mojo, intended to generate interest in what’s coming next.  They’ve certainly worked their magic with me.  One in particular, though, I wanted to take issue with, and as luck would have it, I was face-to-face with one of the guys who was responsible.  “Hey, you know that sign you had that read ‘Remember the cantina in Empires Strikes?  Nothing like that.’  The cantina wasn’t in Empires Strikes Back; it was in the original movie.”  “Hah!” Jim said.  “That was my partner.  I’m gonna text him right now and tell him.”

 What are the odds?  I just happened to see the article.  Jim probably came into Kate’s to check out the competition.  And yet it’s moments like those that make us wonder, and we cue the theme song from The Twilight Zone.

 Then there are the stories that can make the hair rise on the back of the neck.  In the New York Times this past Friday:  Two women, strangers to each other, enrolled at Columbia University, sign up for the same writing class.  When they went through the introductions around the table, they discovered that they are sisters, given up for adoption over thirty years ago.  “You are members of one body, and individually, members of one another.”

 In the mechanical, Newtonian universe, there is a reason for everything, there is cause and effect.  But in the quantum universe, in the subatomic realm, the same laws do not apply.  Light can exist as a particle or a wave.  Water can exist as vapor, liquid, or solid and yet it is still the same molecule—H2O. 

 Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book of essays entitled The Luminous Web, recounts an exchange between the physicists Richard Feynman and John Wheeler as they discussed string theory.  Wheeler exclaimed, “Feynman, I know why all electrons have the same charge and same mass!”  “Why?” Feynman asked.  “Because they are all the same electron!” Wheeler replied.[i]

  What if what appears as diversity is really oneness, wholeness?  We all may behave differently, but at the deepest level we are the same substance.  And when we make the conscious effort to associate with one another, despite, even because of our differences, we create connections and relationships—we begin to witness inklings of this unity.  We become aware that we are not so much building a body, but that we were already a part of the one body.  And when we make promises to each other and join in covenant, we become part of the body’s healing.

  And so it is with what has become known as the Village at this church.  Though perhaps it may have been a tacit covenant, through the common bond of parenthood and childhood, you were the architects and citizens of a village—a network of parents and children and many others in which everyone looks out for everyone else, shares responsibility and wisdom, play and learning.  You were and continue to be an incarnation of God’s love—what we call in churchy language, the Body of Christ.

 In that Body, there are no strangers.  Recall that weekend about a year and a half ago when we first met each other.  My daughters were worried that the ‘kids down here’ wouldn’t accept a pair of geeky sisters.  The youth group here wondered if a couple of preacher’s kids would get along with a geeky group of teens.  Surprise!  You all made room for each other, opened wide the way into the Village, because that’s what you do when connections are made, when oneness recognizes oneness.

 [Confirmand names]—you are the Body of Christ, and individually, members of one another and each of us.  Each of you is a likeness, an image of God, which calls us to see the sacred in all life.  As you have grown, I hope you have witnessed this image of God within you and these village people.  We who have watched you grow—it was and is our sacred and glad calling to help you realize that image of God within you and allow it to unfold in your life.  As you continue to grow, you too will be given opportunities to help others realize the image of God within them, that their lives are sacred and worthy and just as precious as yours.  This can be hard work—making those connections, building relationships.  But it will be your healing as well as theirs; your joy as well as theirs.  You are builders of the next Village, the next incarnation of God’s love, and so be true to that image of God within you.

  It not only takes a village to raise our children; it will take a village to heal our planet—one village at a time.  A village where we are one Body, and individually, members of one another.  A village where we all realize the image of God within us and within everything living thing.  We all everyone must share the burden.  We all everyone will share the joy.  We are village people.  We are Church.


[i] Barbara Brown Taylor, The Luminous Web (Boston, MA: Cowley Publications, 2000), 53.

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