As the Church, we walk together: and not just on Palm Sunday.
It’s a fairly common experience, I think, to meet the parent or sibling of a friend or significant other and think, “Wow — my friend makes more sense now.”
Knowing where someone came from, and knowing their relatives, helps them make more sense.
Which is why I feel like meeting Jesus would make humanity as a whole make more sense, and that someday when we all meet God — if God is the kind of being that can be met, per se — that humanity, or at least, the goodness of humanity, will make more sense to us.
The Genesis reading has been used for centuries against LGBTQ people and women, so let’s get a few things clear: first, a woman created to be the “helper” for the man doesn’t mean that she’s less than he is. Don’t believe me? The Hebrew word for “helper” used here in Genesis is the same Hebrew word used for God in the psalms when a psalmist says, “O God, you are my help.” So yeah. I wouldn’t go too far with that argument, dudes.
Second, the point of the passage is not really gender at all. Sure, it helps explain to ancient people why male and female humans exist, but that doesn’t seem to quite be the theological point being made here. Last week, we talked about how often we get distracted when reading the Bible by talk of heaven and the afterlife — sometimes we get so distracted that we miss what the writer of the passage is actually trying to say. The same is true of gender; we get distracted by it and don’t notice much else about a passage. If we were dogs, gender would be a squirrel: a distraction, something we run off after, leaving everything else behind.
And here is what we miss by running off after gender: “it is not good for a person to be alone.” And God creates all the creatures of the earth — presumably even dogs — and none is found to be a suitable companion.
The only thing that works is when God creates another human. It’s not just Eve; we are all created for each other, to walk with each other, to keep each other company. We are created for relationship by a God whose very self is relationship: one in three, three in one, God is love. It is not good for us to be alone — so we have each other.
Mindful that we have children and a few low-attention adults with us, myself included, today’s sermon is participatory. You just have to listen for your cue.
I’ve been among you for almost three years now, and I’ve walked with you through a lot. So I’m going to describe some things I’ve seen (don’t worry — there are no names, and the things I’m describing are general), and then I’m going to say, borrowing from Elizabeth Eaton, our Lutheran presiding bishop: “We are church” and you will respond, “together.” Feel free to add a clap, just for emphasis. Let’s try it.
We are church: together.
They say that no man is an island, and the same is true of church. No person is an island. No person is a church. We can only do church with others. And here, for this season of each of our lives,
We are church: together.
We gather around a campfire, and we all, young and old, clamor to hear the stories of one member in particular. He tells us stories of the Dick’s Sporting Goods website in the late 1990s, of getting his computer problems solved, and of finding the perfect melon at the grocery store, and a few other stories that we’ve all heard before but long to hear again. If we’re lucky, we might even hear a few new stories. We gather, we toast, we laugh, we roast marshmallows. We are church: together.
We gather around a wheelbarrow, and we receive instructions from our fearless leader — the property chairperson, or the outreach chairperson, or maybe someone else — on a chilly weekend day. We each grab a rake, or a shovel, or a pair of gloves. We clean up: our own church yard, or maybe the yard of a neighbor in need. We laugh and share stories over the mulch that we spread and the hedges that we trim. We are church: together.
We gather around the narthex and say hello to people we haven’t seen in ages. We meet one another’s family that’s flown in from far away. The lights are low and the air is chilly, because it’s Christmas Eve. The ushers wear funny Santa hats because they are hilarious. We sing carols. We light candles. Everyone is welcome. We are church: together.
We gather out by the church sign, waving palms and shouting “Hosanna,” a word no one uses anymore, making our neighbors passing by say, “look at those crazy Lutherans.” It’s early spring and the wind is cold and the day is cloudy, but the sanctuary is warm. We lay our palms and our coats at the altar and we enter into the holy story of Holy Week. We are church: together.
We gather around plastic tables in the fellowship hall and we crunch the numbers and we set a budget for another year. If we’re lucky, someone brings cookies. We are church: together.
We gather around a bed where one of our own lies, sick. We pray. We sing. We make sure, in whispered, non-intrusive tones, that the family has enough food. We ask if there’s anything else we can do for them. We love and we bless and we hug and we cry and we care for our own. We are church: together.
We gather on someone’s porch in summer. We share stories and the awesome cheese dip that somebody made. We make plans for the future and we take shots with corn cobs at the compost bin. We enjoy the warm air of summer and the warm glow of each other’s company. We are church: together.
We gather at a bar owned by one of our own. We sing hymns, we drink beer, we confuse and delight the usual patrons of the bar. We talk about the Red Sox and the Patriots and high school lacrosse. We are church: together.
We gather around a grave, and we say goodbye for now. We make more meals for the family. We meet the whole extended family, who has flown in for the funeral. We awe at how much our beloved church member looks like their sibling, or their children, whom most of us have never met before now. We recall with laughter and tears the memories. We hug one another, and we send each other home. We keep checking in with the person’s loved ones during the weeks and months and years to come. We keep sharing memories. We light candles on All Saints’. We give thanks for that person, always. We are church: together.
We gather in the parking lot for Easter Vigil, all of us, even the pastor, wondering what in the heck we are doing at church on a Saturday night. The sun sinks below the horizon, and we light a fire, the first fire of the warm days, even though it usually isn’t even warm yet. We go inside to the fellowship hall and we tell stories as old as time: stories of God creating humanity, of the children of Israel, of the dry bones of Ezekiel. We go into the sanctuary and taste bread and wine — like always, but not like always. We pop champagne at the end. We celebrate together: Christ is risen indeed. We are church: together.
We gather around the table every Sunday, knowing that even when any one of us is absent, we are here. We God’s people, will always be here, in some form. We gather on the first day of the week, as Christians have for centuries, and sing songs of redemption and read stories that inspire us, stories that confuse us, stories that capture our imaginations or bore us to tears. Every Sunday, we step into this river of faith that’s been going on for centuries and will go on long after we are gone. We, we humans, were created to be together, in relationship with other people. And in this moment in history, this is our faith community, where we come and hear the shouts of kids and clap our hands and share our joy and share our pain and share our lives. We are church: together.
I am proud of you. I am proud of all that you do for one another and the tender ways that you care for one another. I am glad that we are here together for this season of our lives. We humans were created for relationship with one another, and I am glad to share life with you.
Thank you. Thank you for everything that you do here and the ways you contribute: whether by cleaning up the church yard or contributing your gifts or money or talents or by keeping our finances in line or just by getting yourself and your tiny humans here. Thank you. We are blessed and changed by your presence among us. You are the reason — one of many — that we are church: together.
Knowing where someone came from does sometimes make them make more sense. The God from which we all came and to whom we shall all return is relationship, is three in one, and one in three, is love. And we are reflections of that love, because we were created for one another.
And here, in this place: we are church: together. Amen.