We are family - bound in relationships, in community, in Christ’s love

January 28, 2018

When a group of us were selecting music for the Sundays of the year, we found the opening hymn today, and said, That’s a great hymn for our annual meeting Sunday. I invite you to look at some of the words: “O God in whom all life begins, who births the seed to fruit…let your love find root. Bring forth in us …patience, joy and peace, deliver us from numbing fear and grant our faith increase. Unite us in mutual ministry, our minds and hands and hearts…let our varied gifts combine  … to glorify your name, that in all things… we may your love proclaim.” Through tears and laughter, grief and joy, enlarge our trust and care, to bind us in community, that we may risk and dare.’

That’s a great prayer for us at St Jude’s as we strive to love God and our neighbors as ourselves and live out our Mission Covenant in the Silicon Valley in this 21st century.  We are bound in community, united as family with all our differences, our gifts and skills, passions and principles, opinions and activities, all our weaknesses and growing edges, hopes and fears, griefs and joys. Like any family we celebrate together, get on well with each other at some times and are hurt or offended by each other at others, and hopefully we reach out in healthy communication to talk things out and reconcile, forgiving when we hurt each other.

Today at our annual meeting after the brunch, we celebrate this our community, remember our mission and ministry of the past year, lift up those who serve, and look towards this new year and where God is calling us as a faith community.

We also chose the readings and collect today to fit the annual meeting, lifting up the earliest disciples who served Jesus with the gifts they had been given. They are two of a few passages in the New Testament that reflect the ministries of women who loved and followed Jesus, and served the early Christian community. Lydia in business, Dorcas in giving, Phoebe the deacon, Joanna, Susanna, Mary Magdalene. There were women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples and provided resources for them from their own means. This was definitely unusual in a world that kept women in second place, allowed to take charge in their homes and the private sphere, but not in public.

One of the lectionary readings for today is from 1 Corinthians, an early Christian community that struggled with many issues and divisions, including diversity of cultures, class, and theological opinions. It was not unlike many faith communities today.  One of many dividing issues was rules versus relationships – how to live together when people had strong opinions about what they did not eat because of their religious rules, or what they did eat because they felt free no to obey those same religious rules.

Paul counsels the Corinthians to take care lest those who understood the freedom of their faith in Christ, became a stumbling block to those who needed the rules to keep their faith intact. Paul’s message affirmed Jesus’ message of love - our relationships are more important than our rules. We are our sister and our brother’s keeper, it is love that builds us up, and sustains our community in relationship.

We all know that we are called to love each other, but it is in the nitty gritty daily ongoing life that it can be less clear how to do that. In our current national climate there are strong opinions about how best to care for our sisters and brothers. We will not always all agree with each other, and, as a faith community we can model to others a place where the good news is proclaimed, diversity of opinions and people are respected, through the use of different tools we try to use here at St Jude’s. Being unafraid to talk about challenging issues, because we value learning and growing in our faith, both intellectually and spiritually, because we try to create safe spaces to talk, like Bruce will do with the men on Weds night, and remain true to the prophetic witness of Jesus who loved without exception. Like our banner on the corner: Love One Another. No Exceptions.

Do we always get it right? No! we are not perfect, we are human. Like a mosaic, which is made up of small pieces that are beautiful and also broken in order to fit the picture, we are each beautiful and broken, fitted together by God into a beautiful picture of community overall. Or like the Moroccan weavers I saw in a picture from Bishop Mary’s recent trip.  The process looks incredibly messy, with threads all over the place, in bunches of tangled threads, up, down, off the loom, on the loom, with no clue as to what the final product will look like while it is being made. And an incredibly beautiful weaving at the end.

We are each a work in process. St Jude’s is a work in process. We are being woven into a beautiful community by the Holy Spirit, as we follow Jesus. It won’t always look like it or feel like it. It will feel messy and sometimes chaotic. It is love that builds us up and sustains our relationships. In the last words of that opening hymn, we pray that God will ‘be with us when we gather here to worship, sing and pray, then send us forth in power and faith to live the words we say.  Amen.

Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey of faith, you are welcome here.