O Lord, take our mouths and speak through them; Take our hands and work through them, Take our minds and think through them, And take our hearts and set them on fire
- WE BELIEVE we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28). The body of Christ, where those great human divisions are to be overcome, is meant to be an example for the rest of society. When we fail to overcome these oppressive obstacles, and even perpetuate them, we have failed in our vocation to the world—to proclaim and live the reconciling gospel of Christ.
THEREFORE, WE REJECT misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God. We lament when such practices seem publicly ignored, and thus privately condoned, by those in high positions of leadership. We stand for the respect, protection, and affirmation of women in our families, communities, workplaces, politics, and churches. We support the courageous truth-telling voices of women, who have helped the nation recognize these abuses. We confess sexism as a sin, requiring our repentance and resistance.
Two Sundays ago, Sey and I went to our granddaughter’s dance recital. It is an event that happens once a year and the anticipation is always magical. We find our seats in an enormous school auditorium and wait patiently for the delight to begin. Finally, the mistress of ceremonies comes out and welcomes us. A few carefully chosen words are spoken suggesting the theme of the performance we are about to see and then the curtain opens. All in one motion, the audience draws in a deep breath and lets out an audible “OOHH!!” as we feast our eyes on 10 -12 precious little tutu clad bodies. Each one beautiful. Each one hopeful. We cannot take our eyes off of them. Even those we lay no claim to by birth, we are tethered to their dance, their reaction to the crowd, their willingness to share their gifts with us. Our hearts glow with joy.
We get home and turn on the TV to catch a bit of the nightly news. There we see other small bodies. These precious ones are not in tutus, but in whatever their parent could grab as they fled “the mouth of the shark”that their country has become. Each one beautiful. Each one vulnerable. We cannot take our eyes off of them. Even those we have no connection by birth, we feel tethered to their slumping bodies, their fearful eyes, the way they register betrayal in this country whose welcome sign reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Their families are not poised nearby with cameras and flowers waiting to embrace them. These are the children we are snatching from their parents at the border. Without a word or a parting embrace, these children are being sent off into the vast confusing bureaucracy of our country. Thousands, we are told with no guarantee that they will ever see their parents or grandparents again. And our heart break and our hearts rage.
Why are we so deeply moved by children we have never met, children whose life experience is very different from ours? Why does an insuppressible sigh come from us when we see children we do not know in tutus. And why do we feel a gut clenching ache when we see small children frightened and betrayed? Because we are one body.
In the beginning was a point. The general belief among scientists is that the universe began from a single point and it has been expanding from that single point for the past 13.8 billion years. From a single point, there was a bang and then 13.8 years of ongoing creation. For 13.8 billion years the universe has been moving forward in complexity, depth and unity.
From a “single point of infinite density containing all the compressed mass, space, and time of the universe” all of creation has come. First came particles–tiny bits and pieces of energy. Scientist generally agree that about three minutes into the beginning of the universe—in other words almost immediately, these particles began to come together, connections were formed, and from this came atoms.
As the earth cooled, atoms bonded with other atoms and formed something called molecules. Then came the creation of the first star around 400 million years into the life of the universe. In the making of stars, a process called thermonuclear fusion led to the creation of the stuff we need for life—carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.
At the 10 billion year mark, molecules began to bond with other molecules and then you had the beginning of the first cells and the beginning of organic cellular life. Animals did not come along until around the 13 billion year mark and the first people arrived even later.
But though we showed up really late, we have been very busy. And we are creatures with boundless potential. We are made of systems-—limbic, skeletal, muscular, circulatory, immune. These systems are made of cells—hundreds of billions of cells that daily die and daily replenish themselves. Our bodies have 206 bones, 639 muscles, and about 6 pounds of skin, along with ligaments, cartilage, veins, arteries, blood fat, and more. Every time we hear a sound, every time we take a step, every time we take a breath, hundreds of different parts work together so that what we experience is a single movement—our minds and bodies working as one unit.
But in addition, we are beings that are aware that we are aware. Consciousness is present in all animals, but at some point humans became so complex that we were able to stand outside ourselves and ponder and wonder and reflect on purpose, and significance, and hope. But there is something even more.
How many of you when you have some time on the weekend, head downtown for a child sacrifice just to keep the tradition alive? No one? Raise your hand if you are against slavery? Good! We find these ideas abhorrent. And yet people used to practice child sacrifice. Slavery was legal in this country until 1865. So you have just affirmed some sort of trajectory or arc—some sense that humans were here, we are moving along, at different speeds, but we are moving along.
There is something in us that is able to look back and think that behaviors that at one time were totally normal, commendable, standard ways of doing things we now see as abhorrent, destructive, immoral, toxic and rightfully illegal. How are we able to look back with profound disgust and sometimes even anger and say, “Thank God we have moved forward from that?” And also be able to know that there are many things that are happening right now that we know are wrong and so we long and work for the day that we will leave these things behind.
We are a part of a universe that continues to expand and create new layers that previously did not exist. Our part in this universe is both external and internal. When we go outside into God’s great creation we rejoice in the beauty, but we also say that we feel at home–at one with nature. We are because we are made of the same stuff.
When someone laughs, we cannot resist at least a smile. And tears from someone always produces a sympathetic response. We feel this in our body. There are deep connections here. This is because we are one body. Each of us made of the same stuff of creation. Each of us a part of an intricate and wondrously complex set of relationships that continue to grow, to move, to create new what has not been before.
The Rev. James Martin says that the reason we feel pain and anger and compassion when we look at a small child waiting to be taken to a “tender camp” or when we look at people piled into flimsy life boats fleeing violence in their countries, it is God speaking through our conscience, telling us to listen and act. I believe that God speaks to us in many ways and that this is certainly a way that God moves our hearts to respond to any action that denies dignity and love to any of God’s children.
But I also believe that it is because deep within us, we recognize each other. We resonate with our common connection–that divine spark that was present at the beginning and connects us to everything that is in the universe. As Ilia Delio writes, “Human life must be traced back to the time when life was deeply one, a Singularity, whereby the intensity of mass-energy exploded into consciousness.” This singularity is the basis for the recognition of our inherent dignity, the recognition of universal sacredness of all life, a sense of connection that transcends tribes, nationalities, and religions.
When Paul says in his letter to the church in Rome, “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” (12:5) He is speaking to the idea that we are all drawn to each other because we are made in God’s image and likeness. From the beginning, each of us made of the stuff of life–particles, atoms, molecules, cells, stardust—we are a part of one universal body. Each of are created unique and particular. Each of have special gifts and distinct personalities. God delights in diversity. But each of us share much in common and we were made for connection.
When we gather together around the table to celebrate the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, we enter into a 2000 year old ritual that recognized the emergence of a “new humanity.” The defining characteristics of this “new humanity” was that Greeks and Jews, men and women, people of all cultures and life experiences could come together around the sharing of bread and wine to claim their common humanity that overcame all the ways people could find to divide and separate themselves. That there was something that unites us that is more basic to our humanity than any way we could come up with to separate ourselves. And they insisted that there was an emerging body of humanity that they called “the body of Christ.” For them this was a new way of being human—a common brotherhood and sisterhood that we all share. They even spoke about something being incomplete being brought to completion.
You are and I are being invited to form something the universe has never seen. A humanity that finds a way to overcome division and replace it with compassion, with connection, with a deep sense of reverence for our common dignity. I think that is why racism, inequality, treating some as less than, grieves us so deeply. We innately sense that this is not the way the universe is moving. We sense that something that is trying to arise is being held back. We know that it denies the Gospel.
We were created and we flourish as one body. Each of us a part of the infinite source of energy that formed us at the beginning. Each of us created of the stuff that gives all life. We are connected to each other. We belong to each other. We are to care for each other. And we are invited as members of Christ’s body to form something the universe has never seen.
Why does Jesus say when he is asked to sum all of it up, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself?” Because love, the energy that moves beyond itself for the well- being of all creation, lines us up with the fundamental direction of the universe. We are one body. May we walk toward that promised future together.