Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Ripple Effect: Being Together

November 10, 2013       The Ripple Effect: Being Together              Pastor Carol P. Taylor
United Church of Beloit

Ecclesiastes 4:8-12
8 There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
“and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless―
a miserable business!
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Football joke...from Reader's Digest. As a Catholic, Iam partial to Notre Dame football. As a former Michigan resident, though, I also keep tabs on Michigan college teams. One Saturday afternoon, a neighbor dropped in while I was watching Notre Dame vs. Michigan State. ”Which team do you want to win?” he asked. I replied, “Gee, I don't know,” ”I'm kind of torn between Church and State.” Robert A. Kozma

Community...sports as community building, we bond...but it can promote division too, Packers/Bears etc....
true community runs much more deeply...

Ripple effect.....the rock tossed into the pond....bigger rock equals bigger ripples! When we live out our faith, we are causing ripples that can have quite an effect on others!

And we may cause different kinds of ripples....positive or negative. The ripples we send out can effect others well, or badly. So we need to be mindful about what ripples we cause, what effect we may have on others, right?

We are all part of the body of Christ. Everyone in this church, in every church everywhere. That every single part of the body is valuable and necessary. Even the parts that don't seem special. We are all children of God.

In my extended family, my cousins and their spouses and kids, are some pretty strongly held opinions. We have Catholics and Protestants and Jews, agnostics, Democrats and Republicans, GB Packer fans, Bears fans and one Vikings fan, but he is only related by marriage....and we're praying for him.

But down deep, we are family first and foremost. We love and respect each other, even tho our discussions can get loud and lively! We enjoy being together, and that is what is most important.

People tend to label people. Most people like to have things fit into categories. That's just the way our minds work. Gender, economic status, racial background, country of origin, sexuality, dog lover or cat lover....whether as a fan of the other team, or whatever. But we need to be careful because labeling can be a way of “othering”--that is saying that the person we just labeled is different...not one of us..therefore one of the 'others'. If we focus on what is different, we fail to peceive what we have in common. It's harder to remember that we are all part of the same family, the family of God. We fail to see that the other person has had joy and troubles, has loved and has had heartbreak, has been ill and has felt fantastic...

it takes practice to keep looking for and focusing on what we have in common.

Author Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together:
Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it.’ 

You see, we can not fully achieve true community all by ourselves.
In the Old testament lesson, did you notice something? The writer is talking about 2 people, 2 people together...then says 'A CORD of three strands is not easily broken.” two people, three strands....

it's God. The first strand is God. God who created us, out of love, God who created us to Love God and Love and take care of each other. God who so loved that God sent his Only Son....When we make sure God comes first in our hearts and lives, then we are the cord of three strands. THEN we are truly the Body of Christ, living our faith, our commitment to our family―our immediate family, our church family and the family of God.

Dallas Willard
... By relying on {Jesus'} word and presence we are enabled to reintegrate the little realm that makes up our life into the infinite rule of God. And that is the eternal kind of life. Caught up in his active rule, our deeds become an element in God’s eternal history. They are what God and we do together, making us part of his life and him a part of ours.

A Story on a pastors' website....There was a Benedictine community to whom nobody came. As the monks grew old, they became more and more disheartened because they couldn't understand why their community was not attractive to other people. Now in the woods outside the monastery there lived an old rabbi. People came from all over to talk to him about the presence of Yahweh in creation. Years went by and finally the abbot himself went into the woods, leaving word with his monks, “I have gone out to speak to the rabbi.” (It was of course considered humiliating that a Christian community had to go back to the synagogue to find out what was wrong with them.)

When the abbot finally found the rabbi's hut in the woods, the rabbi welcomed him with open arms as if he had known that he was coming. They put their arms around each other and had a good cry. The abbot told the rabbi that his monks were good men but..., and the community was dying. He asked the rabbi if he had any insight into the work of Yahweh in their lives. The rabbi replied, I have the secret and I will tell you once. You may tell the monks and then none of you is ever to repeat it to one another. The abbot declared that if they could have the secret, he was sure his monks would grow.

So the rabbi looked at him long and hard and said, The secret is that among you, in one of you is the Messiah! The abbot went back to this community and told his monks the secret. And lo! as they began to search for the Messiah in one another they grew, they loved, they became very strong, very prophetic. And the old conference ends: From that day on, the community saw Him in one another and flourished!
--Story told by Joan D. Chittister.

Among you, in one of YOU is the Messiah!

Jesus is within each of us. Look for Jesus, look for the heart, remember that there is heartbreak there too, and send out ripples that are positive, kind and loving.

Let's pray together, this is the full version of a familiar prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference,
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
-Reinhold Niebuhr.

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