Sermon: “Acting Each Other into Well-being” (1/31/16)

The past two weeks, we’ve spent some time with I Corinthians 12, where Paul explains his Mr. Potato Head theology:  “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…The body of Christ does not consist of one member but of many…If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?  If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?”  The “still more excellent way” Paul described is found in calling forth each person’s gifts “for the common good.”

Then I asked how we might find our own “still more excellent way” here at Pilgrimage, and said to “stay tuned,” because I’d share some thoughts this week.  That’s when someone guffawed.  J  …and when I invited you to dream up your own ideas about helping us find a “still more excellent way.”  I invite you to write those ideas down and place them in the basket.   As promised, here are a few of my ideas….actually it’s just one idea.  And it grows directly out of today’s Scripture text, the love poem Paul felt compelled to include in his letter to the conflicted Corinthian community.

Want to know my idea?  Here goes.  My idea is that before we do anything new in the community–or maybe while we’re doing anything, old or new–we take a minute to speak aloud together I Corinthians 13:4-7.

Before you dismiss the idea as silly—or guffaw—let’s try it.  I’ll name something that’s happening in our community, say “Love is patient,” and you all respond with I Cor. 13:4-7.

The visit next week by some of our Muslim friends….

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

 

The youth group’s plan to attend the UCC National Youth Event in July…

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

 

Next summer’s theme of “Acting the World into Well-being”….

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

 

It wasn’t by design that we scheduled the budget meeting for the day the love chapter  came up, but here we are:  1 Corinthians 13 on the day of our congregational meeting to vote on the 2016 Mission Spending Plan.  Either God’s Spirit has a wicked sense of humor, or is, perhaps, trying to tell us something.  So, let’s try it…the congregational conversation in a few minutes to vote on the 2016 Mission Spending Plan…

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

 

In part, I’m being playful….but mostly not.  We just sang “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.”  We like that song a lot…mostly, I suspect, because it counters most popular images of Christians these days.  But also because it goes to the heart of what we believe and try–to the best of our ability–to practice here.  Following Christian ethicist Beverly Harrison’s definition of love, we work hard here to “act each other into well-being.”

In truth, everything we do here we do–or try to–in a spirit of love, of working together for the common good, of acting the community into well-being by acting each other into well-being.  So, I’m not so much inviting us to try something new.  Instead, I’m inviting us to deepen our awareness of doing everything we do in and out of love.

What I’m inviting us to do…Scratch that.  What I’m challenging us to do–is to get down to the marrow of what it means to be a community of Jesus’ followers.  I’m not suggesting that we add activities to our already burgeoning schedules, though we might feel led to add (or maybe even subtract) a few.  I’m not suggesting that we change any of our ministries, though that could happen.  I’m not suggesting that we have a membership drive or a big building campaign, though we might choose to do those things.

What I’m suggesting is that we go deep into the core of our faith, deep into the core of who we are and what we’re about as a community of Jesus’ followers….What I’m suggesting is that we plunge ourselves even more deeply into the beautiful, terrifying, absolutely REAL love of God.  Because without that, does any of the rest of it really matter?

Here’s the thing about love, about acting each other into well-being–it isn’t easy.  In fact, it’s just about the hardest thing in the world to do.  I think that’s why it’s getting harder these days–not just in this church, but in all faith communities–to get folks to commit to joining and participating.  Because living in community is hard.  Hard.  Hard.  Hard.  That’s a direct quote from last week’s sermon.  I say it again because I want to say this:  community is hard!  Especially when you talk about and really try to love each other.

So it makes sense that Paul included this poem about love when he wrote to the conflicted Corinthian community.  We’ve all got different gifts, Paul says.  Those differences are bound to create conflict.  Just remember that it’s the same Spirit–God’s spirit–that gives every gift.  “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  When conflicts arise, the thing that will help get the community back on track is remembering why it exists in the first place:  to live out God’s love here on earth.  We are here for love.  Period.

Here’s what I like about this love passage–It’s not syrupy sweet or abstract and philosophical.  In fact, it’s about as pragmatic as you can get.  Say it with me one more time:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

In March, I moved Mom into a Senior Living facility in Gainesville, Florida.  I observed a lot about the challenges of community life on my visits to the Atrium.  The 5 story building with a total of 225 apartments has 3  v e r y  s l o w  elevators.  And when many residents use walkers or scooters–you spend a lot of time waiting to go up or down.

Each floor has a laundry room–with three washers and two dryers, most of which work some of the time.  That’s for 48 apartments on one floor.

The community shares meals 3 times a day…where the service is slow and many of the residents are halfway into dementia.

And there’s this one lady who has the meanest Dachsund I’ve ever seen.  Every time I took my mom’s dog, Mike, out for a walk, I always had to peek out the door to see whether that woman and her dog were there before we exited.

Yes, living in community with folks who are in their 80s and 90s can be challenging.

Despite the difficulties, though, Mom made some good friends in her 10 months at the Atrium.  There were Tom and Joanne, who helped us move.  Joanne has significant mobility issues, but that didn’t slow her down at all.  At one point, I think I counted 12 tote bags on her walker!  Tom’s mobility is good, but he was helping us move two days before starting chemo for leukemia.  Neither Tom nor Joanne would hear of NOT helping us.

Charlie offered to help, too.  He really wanted to help.  And he probably could have, but Charlie’s 93.  We decided to give him a bye this time.  Steve is 94, and he works at Publix bagging groceries.  They call him “The Ambassador.”  Steve offered to help us move, too, but when he’s not working, he has to keep close tabs on his wife, Virginia, who has advanced dementia, so it really wasn’t possible for him to help.

Steve is a former Tuskegee Airman and a Baptist minister.  We always seem to have a lot to talk about.  J  Steve has had a hard time with Mom’s move.  As we talked about it at our last meal together at the Atrium, Steve said this:  “You can’t ever let circumstances get in the way of friendship.  You always stay in touch with your friends.”

I think in his way, Steve was telling Mom that he has come to see her as a friend, that he cares about her, that he loves her.   And despite changing circumstances, that care, concern, and love will not fade.

I think that’s what Paul was telling the Corinthians, too.  I think that’s why he included the love poem.  He wanted to remind them that no matter the circumstances, no matter what’s going on in the community, it can’t ever get in the way of friendships, relationships.  No circumstance faced by the community can ever get in the way of the community’s mission…and if that community is a group of Jesus’ followers, that mission is love—sharing God’s deep, abiding, terrifying, beautiful, absolutely REAL love with others.  If anything distracts us from that, we will have lost our way.  Because that is what we’re here for.  It’s the only thing we’re here for.  We are here for love.

If we stay focused on that, everything else will fall into place.  Our next steps forward will be clear…we will discover that through it all, we have indeed found a “still more excellent way.”

FullSizeRender (28)

 

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  © 2016

About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s