Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cultivate a Life in Common

When I was still a young newlywed, someone gave me this picture called “House Rules.”
If you sleep on it, make it up.
If you wear it, hang it up.
If you drop it, pick it up.
If you eat out of it, wash it.
If you spill it, wipe it up.
If you open it, close it.
If you empty it, fill it up.
These are basically the “pick up your mess” rules the ones most parents say over and again. Upon reflection Michael and I don’t think that sign had any effect at our house.
Then come the last three phrases:
If it rings, answer it.
If it howls, feed it.
If it cries, love it.
These rules probably most need to be posted because often our tendency is to act in our own self interest. These three are not “deal with your own mess” rules. These are love rules for a life together.
The kind of thing that Jesus is talking about when he tells people to repent- or specifically in the gospel of Matthew- reorient your world view.
To reflect and reveal God- who is light and salvation, not fear.

When the kingdom draws near, the view should change.

Separation should end.
Because God’s world view is broad.
By the time the apostle Paul is building churches, it seems people still struggle with God’s world view. I guess we all do.
Paul writes to a group of very divided people, attempting to counsel a community  trying to navigate political divisions and quarrels. Within the church they were arguing about who was the most authoritative or best suited to be the leader of the Church. Much of this conflict could be traced to divisions over  politics, cultures, languages and by the gap between wealth and poverty. Where what was once Greece was now Greeks and Romans and many others from around the Mediterranean. Caesar was God. and the majority of people worshipped the idols of power and might and getting ahead was utmost. With all kinds of groups of people, languages, laws and customs and a “get ahead” mentality,  Corinth was a dog-eat-dog world, in perpetual competition.
The Church had come to reflect the city itself.  In Paul’s view, they had lost sight of the gospel message that he had first preached to them. He claims that their conduct showed that they were still living by the measure of Rome.
Their divisions are growing.
Paul writes- I appeal to you-
grow differently.
Christ calls us to cultivate a life in common. Because we share this life.
While I don’t think we need this message in our life in this building, I do think there is a word for us as church in the world.
The message of the empire is often the total opposite of  Christ’s message. And it can become easy to let some other force or worldview govern our actions and life, instead of  God.

Paul warns that divisiveness will rip the house apart. We can grow together or fall apart. At this beginning of new government in our country and a time of many world concerns, Christ has a word for us as we live as church in the world.

Grow differently. Cultivate a life together.

Someone shared this image recently- that we can be tumbleweeds that dry up and blow around, never rooted.  Or we can be redwoods. The redwoods roots are not deep but they grow out and intertwine. That's how redwoods stand tall and live long. Not by dividing but putting it all in together. In all we face as people in Christ's kingdom, we should  cultivate that kind of life in common. That with Christ as our center we can risk being redwoods.

I think the only way we can remember this being rooted together, whenever things around us become so divided is by remembering our baptism (1:17).
In baptism, we become a part of God’s house, through Christ’s resurrected body. By remembering our baptism, we remember our death to one reality and inauguration into another—we remember that we, in truth, belong to God and GOD’S kingdom view.

This is what really unites us and what we should reflect. Our one-ness in the death and resurrection that we experience with Christ in our baptism. The same one-ness that tells us to cast out that net wide to look for those who need the gospel, including all those calling out, howling or crying who long to be heard and answered, fed and loved.
And this looks like foolishness.

“Paul emphasizes this foolishness to combat the social norms the Corinthians and all of us have been conditioned to believe are ultimate. He juxtaposes the cross against that world view saying  “remember everything you built your life around? Those … values of  wealth, and power? Forget all of that.”
Paul calls the church to die completely to the dominant values that surround them, and, embrace the radical reality ushered in by Christ. And live in the unity of Christ.

The gospel is  the radical good news that God in Christ has freed us all from what society demands we be;
it’s about figuring out how to live together as a community in light and in this life-altering message;
and it is about spreading that good news to others.
That everyone is a part of  the beautiful unity of difference which can happen in Christ.

Yet, unity in Christ also means that certain things are non-negotiable.
We are to condemn as Christ did the forces of oppression and injustice.
Being united in these instances means fighting and struggling alongside those struggling in the darkness, just as Christ did long ago. The Corinthians were trying to play by the same rules and operate under the same values as the rest of the world that pardoned the exploitation, discrimination, violence, and oppression of people who were different.

In contrast to these divisive values, Paul writes, we are to be united in the foolishness of the cross—that same foolishness Jesus embraced each day on earth as he sat with the poor and ate with the despised of society. To cultivate this view of living is work. To cultivate our life in common we need God’s help to continually pull out the weeds of prejudice and mistrust, fear and stubbornness that breed division.
We need God’s help to nurture others and not  simply telling them “everything will be OK” or to "get over it." To say instead- I am here.

Cultivating this life requires uprooting the stones of assuming the worst, it requires trusting others we see as in different groups also belong in God’s house as children that God desires to grow. And it calls for disrupting the practice of sowing the salt of discord and chaos that kill life. And to live instead in a new life. Because when the kingdom draws near, the view should change.

And through baptism, we are God’s priests in this world- living among God’s faithful people; hearing the word of God and sharing in the Lord’s Supper; proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through word and deed; serving all people following the example of Jesus; and striving for justice and peace in all the earth. And we are called to claim our sisters and brothers in God’s world and treat them as family. My prayer for our nation and our world is that we will together see this is a time to forget “us and them”, and start being “we.” To cultivate growing in a life in common.

Wherever and with whomever this seems hardest, may our prayers start there.

Let us pray:
Lord of all nations, a new President governs in this country. Legislators and others at all levels begin to work anew. And we, your people are walking into a new chapter in this part of your kingdom. Bless them. For some this is a time of great celebration, for others it is a time of great uncertainty. Guide us. Help us to remember that amid all the changes, your love is steadfast and your strength never fails. Turn our eyes to you and guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom, so we may work to provide all your people the blessings of well being and harmony.
Almighty God, we lift before you all who govern. May those who hold power understand that it is a trust from you to be used, not for personal glory or profit, but for the service of all people. Empower us to defend our liberty and fill us with wisdom to work together for justice and peace. Where there is good help us to affirm it. Where there is wrong, give us courage to address it knowing that you will provide us with the wisdom we need.
God of all, you have created us in such wonderful diversity. Free us from prejudices, guard us from serving our fears. Help us to see you in the face of all people. Help us to break down the walls that separate us and teach us to work to accomplish your purposes- to affirm the dignity of all and to work to protect the most vulnerable. This is not the work of a day, or the work of only a few, or for only a few. This is our common purpose. Drive us from cynicism, selfishness and corruption and give us the grace to live together and to work together for unity and peace.

And in all things help us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you. May we work to bring forth your kingdom and give you alone the glory. Amen.

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