Keep in mind that this was given to a very specific community. Also keep in mind that I wandered from this script a little (but not a lot...)
1 Corinthians 12:1-6 and 12 – 27 I am skipping some sections because my goal is not to talk about Spiritual gifts but to talk about community.
These two quote inspired much of this sermon:
You have to let go of whatever you were, and become who you are. – Stacy, What not to Wear
“A woman must come of age herself. She must find her true center alone.” - Anne Marrow Lindbergh
On Thursday, I turned 25. 25 doesn’t feel like me, because now I can no longer deny to myself (or anyone else for that matter) that I am an adult. However, I also realize the beauty of the freedom to be an adult. With that freedom comes the realization that it is not really about the freedom to be an adult, it is the freedom to be myself. Not to necessarily become myself, but instead to recognize the life that God has given me. It seems I have only begun to find this freedom in adulthood. I have found that I can no longer rely on outside sources to define me, but must define myself. For example it no longer makes sense for me to say, “I am Benji’s little sister.” Or “I am Julie’s best friend”. My definitions of myself must come from somewhere else.
In a conversation with my mother a couple of months ago, I remember telling her that should I ever discover that I was adopted, I would lose my entire sense of self. I think we all do this in some capacity. We build who we are, who we think we are, who we want to be, on the communities in which we interact. A tangible example of this, is the You might be from Washington if things: you know stuff like…
You might be from Washington if you wear shorts in 60 degree weather.
You might be from Washington if you think Umbrellas are for tourists.
You might be from Washington if you think Oregonians are bad drivers.
We are from Washington. These tidbits describe us. They create a part of our identity.
My point here is that we can identify ourselves as individuals by the varying communities to which we belong now, either now, in the past, or in the future. So then we should ask, How does community affect our creation of our selves? Is it a positive or a negative affect? Well I suppose that depends on the community.
There has never been a time in my life that this community has not been directly or indirectly involved in my daily life. Even when I was away at college, I was financially and spiritually supported by you all. This community makes up a very large part of who I am. But I have to ask myself if I am always being as much myself as I could be while here with you. I am so used to being a certain person within these walls, that I don’t know if I am bringing the most of me and thereby the most of my understanding of Christ when I worship here. So I ask myself what do I check at the door when I come to you. What are those things that I leave behind in order to meet this community’s expectations of who I am, of who I need to be, etc etc. Simultaneously, I ask myself what you check at the door for the same reason… and then if I personally am the reason you would leave that behind.
When I come in I most often leave behind my struggles with paying my bills, my loneliness in Christ, my passion for liturgy and the Catholic Church, my hope for a husband, my despair over my inability to have my own children. Some days, when he is not with me, I leave behind my embarrassment and loss over having a homeless father, or my love for the new life my mother has made for herself outside of this community, and a whole slew of sins not worth mentioning in this moment. It is not because I think I would be shunned (although that fear exists) or that I fear you won’t know how to deal with my life, because if any community could embrace something as crazy as my inner-world, it would be this one. It is because this community has been one of very few constants in the whole of my life and I don’t want to feel the growing pains that could occur should I bring new portions of my self here.
But I recognize as well, that because I leave all of those things behind, I leave behind a whole huge portion of my understanding of Christ. My life in the last few years has drastically changed, and with it my views of Jesus and the Church. By not being the most of myself while I am here I am denying you access to the Christ I have come to know and love.
I leave behind the Christ that stood silently and stably by while I held my uncle’s hand through long nights of rattling breaths in his last days with us. I leave behind the Christ that accompanies me on the nights when I must dig through the streets of Seattle to find my father. I leave behind the Christ that has excused me from worry of sin, in order to worship him in love and obedience, rather than in fear and guilt. I also leave behind the Christ that I encounter just an hour before I arrive here… the Christ I find in the Catholic Church. I leave behind the Christ I find in the community I work in. He is a Christ of the world… a Christ that we may not acknowledge because my coworkers don’t trust his existence but live him in a way I have not encountered before. I leave behind the Christ my mother worships in the solitude of her own home, playing hymns on the piano purchased for her by a man she is not married to because she cannot find acceptance or love in any community. He bought her that piano just so she could worship Jesus… and yet he does not believe in Christ. I leave behind the Christ I find in that same man who supports my faith by dialoging with me about it, by purchasing my newest theological books from Amazon so that I can further my understanding of Christ. I even leave behind the Christ I encountered at Simpson. The Christ you sent me to learn, because He is full of ideas and theology that I am afraid would startle you to the point of no longer believing that I am a Christian. I am keeping these portions of Christ, and of myself, from you. I do this out of fear for myself, and fear for you. I do this because I do not want to experience what Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 8.
There is a very real responsibility we are charged with to not cause our brothers to sin by doing something that so challenges their faith that they then fall into sin. However, how can I know that what I am saying or doing or believing will cause you to sin if I am not in dialogue with you about it. I can ask you, “How do you feel about the inerrancy of the Bible? Do you feel that the Bible must be 100% correct in fact and grammar in order to 100% true… to be infallible?” In this way you must confront your beliefs and I must confront my community. I have chosen you as my community of faith. It is the beauty of this country. I can go to church wherever I want. I do not have to go to the church nearest my house (if I did I would become an Episcopalian). I have the absolute freedom to drive for an hour and worship with you. By choosing you though, I choose to submit to your “weaknesses”. I use this word not as an insult, but because Paul did in the passage I just read. It is important to remember that the freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. We have freedom in Christ to be who we are, to experience Him as we would, as He would direct us to. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 and 10 that “Everything is Permissible, but not everything is Beneficial.” This is true for us.
I have spoken much from my own examples today. I wanted to start off the dialogue. I used my examples that I could set a precedent of self honesty. I want you to see who I am, and I want to see who you are. Not only the you that comes into this building, but all of the you the interacts with Christ. I encourage all of you to consider what you check at the door. Do you leave behind your job, your worries about money, your bitterness about traffic, your fear of death, or rejection, your love of something “unacceptable”. What parts of Christ are you keeping from me because you are afraid? What parts are for my own safety? What parts are you keeping from others in this church? Let us start the dialogue. I must always, because I am afraid of humanity, give the caution to move wisely. However simultaneously I will remind us all as we hopefully embark on a journey of exploring each other and the parts of Christ we find in each other, that grace is a gift from God. And that just as it is okay for me to express to you that there is a part of Christ for me that loves loving homosexuals, it is just as okay for you to express to me that that makes you uncomfortable. It is so important that we are dialoging. As a body of believers we must realize what affects one of us affects us all. When an eye ceases to see, the feet become unsure. I have chosen you, I have chosen your weaknesses. It is not our place to choose each other and then shun each other’s weaknesses. Rather it is our place to embrace those weaknesses and work to keep each other from sin. It would be a tragedy if in order to do that, though, we ceased to be who we are, who God has created us to be, who we are when we encounter Christ. That is not community. As Paul said, a foot should not become an eye in order to worship Jesus in a certain community. A foot should remain a foot and be the most footlike it be, and the eye should find joy in that. The most footlike I can be is to be a Protesting Catholic, daughter of a homeless man, daughter of a sinner who loves Jesus on her own, believer in a Jesus who does not condemn me or allow me to condemn others, lover of Arabic nations, and passionately celibate and single woman. What is the most footlike you can be (or eyelike, or handlike, or heartlike, or whatever!)
Please stand for this benediction
Let us move together toward a broader understanding of Christ, by gaining a broader understanding of our selves and of each other. “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”