Proper 11 Year B 2021
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Love goes beyond language
Love interrupt thoughts
And is boundless in her might.
Let love meet you in your hiding place.
Let love meet you in the mystery.
Right here where you are
Not just your tomorrow self.
Oh no, you are loved today.
(Morgan Harper Nichols, “How Far You Have Come” page 107)
Do you remember the tune, “One is the Loneliest number that you’ll ever know?”
A catchy tune that Harry Nielson penned the song: was made famous by the band: Three Dog Night. Believe it or not, Harry Nielson wrote the song inspired by the beep beep beep of the busy signal that Harry listened to while dialing a friend. Reaching out for connection, Harry’s desire was denied by the fact that the other person was talking to someone else (1968 was very much PRE-call waiting OR voicemail). Harry penned the song to the rhythm of the tone. As he sat and listened to the fact that no one was going to respond to him.
It’s simple song with a chorus of “One is the loneliest number that’ll you’ll ever know”— in the late 60’s this chorus struck a chord with many. Feeling alone, isolated, separated. The song was so popular that it topped the charts for three weeks, at number (wait for the comedy here)— #2!
If we are being honest, this song still resonates deeply within us.
One can be the loneliest number.
When you have been separated from those you love, when you find yourself alienated by peers or family, when illness restricts your ability to be present with others.
One can be the loneliest number.
And yet love meets us there and can transform that loneliness.
St Paul this week is writing to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus the booming town with flourishing trade and lots of conversation. Like any place of commerce there was wealth, comfort, AND disparity and division. Paul is writing to the Ephesians to remind them that the true definition of being one is to be no longer lonely, no longer solitary,
Rather, “being one” is defined by coming together to be one as community.
To become one to eliminate division and isolation.
In our reading today St. Paul uses the word ONE 4 times in his reading!
First, be one to bring groups together, breaking down walls.
Second, be one and recreate one humanity, through the God incarnate, in the flesh with us in human form.
Third, Be one and reconcile into one through Jesus’ death on the cross, and expressing his love so expansively for all
Finally, we are one restored daily through the one spirit, when we feel discouraged, alone, left out.
Being one is no longer lonely rather it is unifying and strengthening.
Being one together acknowledges the beloved individuality of each person and brings them together on the common ground of Love.
Community that was divided is brought together, walls broken down, and as one, the community stronger.
And this is hard work- it was for the Ephesians and is for us.
This was the reason baptism was only for adults in the early church, in baptism you are committing to promises of behavior to transform your daily life. We promise to strive to building community and growing in relationship with God and one another.
Building Community is messy, hard, and challenging work.
Building Community is listening deeply to the person with a different opinion or perspective rather than dismissing them.
Becoming One means letting go of our way being the only way and coming together.
Here’s the thing.
God has a knack for transforming our lives in every step and stage.
When being one could be lonely and terrifying, God can make us one: strengthened and unified.
In our Gospel reading you hear Jesus departing for a time away to rest and upon arriving sees that the crowds on the other shore are lost, as though without a shepherd.
Jesus does not run the other way, instead he runs towards them and transforms their space.
In their loneliness, their wanderings, Jesus gave them compassion and teaching, healing, and presence. The crowd became one flock drinking deeply the still waters of peace that Jesus restored to them. He met them where they were and was WITH them.
Yesterday we gathered for the Lynching Memorial Marker Dedication Ceremony and Interfaith Service of Remembrance just a half mile from here at Cascades park. WITH over 200 people, we remembered Piece Taylor, Mick Morris, Richard Hawkins, and Ernest Ponder all murdered without ever having a day in court between the years of 1888-1937. And they are just four of the members of our community who died in this way.
45 different faith communities came together in the form of the Community Remembrance Project to strive to collaborate to looking honestly at our past in this community and how we can move forward to strive for justice for all of God’s children and respecting the dignity of every human being. The work of this collaborative group is to come together not just to mark the past but also to create a better future. Their work does not conclude with the marker dedication, it continues with continued education and work towards seeking building up community.
Similarly, St. John’s continues to work with Capital Area Justice Ministry. This ministry is a collaboration of multi faith, multi-economic, multi-race congregations seeking to build up community for the restoration of humanity, the recreating of community and as Paul says, a dwelling place for God. Ever since Cain was jealous of Abel, we have had work to do to be in community with each other and with God.
In the church, we are constantly coming together as one body.
ON Sundays, like now, together in one space (physically and virtually)
We return to church in those thin spaces of our lives, when we gather for marriage, baptisms, and at funerals.
We gather as one when we need healing, strength and courage.
And we are sent out as one into the world.
Our work is to help convert the “one is the loneliest number” chorus into “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord”- accompanying those who feel weak and grow in the knowledge of the love of God.
Let God meet you right where you are, in whatever that makes you feel like one is the loneliness number and know that we are one right here with you, one with you as a shepherd giving you healing, strength and courage to be loved today and to make a difference today.
To close with the words of Bono from the Band U2, we are:
One love, one blood
One life, you got to do what you should
One life, with each other
One life but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other