Matthew 18:15-20 and a Message from White Eagle, Hopi Indigenous on 03/16/2020
Happy Sunday! Thank you for being here for our worship this morning. What a gift to be a part of something that reminds us regularly that we are not alone.
As you are so moved I invite you to take a deep breath and to let yourself arrive. Join me in a spirit of prayer.
God, Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, wherever they are, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Take care. This is at the heart of the message we heard from the Hopi Indigenous leader White Eagle. The Hopi Nation shared this message to sound the alarm that we have entered a dangerous period- a time where we can take falls of all kinds. Maybe you feel like you are stumbling a bit right now? This moment in our shared history can pull us into a deep, dark hole. Or this time can summon us to the portal. Early on this pandemic, I shared the words from an essay by Arundhati Roy where she also contended that “The pandemic is a portal,” and that “coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth…trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.” She goes on to say that this can be for us- “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
But here’s the thing: a portal is an entrance, which means we still have to get ourselves to the doorway. It won’t just open up below us or pull us up in a wind. We might need to drag ourselves and one another there, leaving any luggage behind.
But right now most of us are some level of depressed and some of us deeply. Others of us find ourselves turning inward. Others of us are paranoid, worried, wondering who if anyone, has our best interests in mind in a world like this. Others of us are mired in piles of what might be and overwhelmed with what is and still we are working harder than ever. Others of us are sad, on an emotional roller coaster, raw. Others of us are impatient and quick to anger. Others of us are retreating from most everything, cutting off completely.
This is what I am noticing in our congregation and community right now and I know that this is happening in many places that are enduring this experience. In fact, the cover of the Daily Camera this morning read: Everybody feels it! Anxiety and stress have increased, along with unhealthy coping strategies like alcohol consumption and substance abuse, in part because we are denied many of the things that get us through life, like going to the gym, choir, spending time with groups of friends, rooting for the jersey in a crowded stadium or being there. We aren’t taking care.
But if this is going to be like this for a while, we can’t carry on like this. Let us slow down.
As we heard from the wisdom of the Hopi, part of how we will resist the hole, resist the pull of pessimism, resist the tide of negativity is to take care- “Take care of your homes, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual House. When you are taking care of yourselves, you are taking care of everything else.”
And as a church, our spiritual house is understood as one body, in which each of us are a part. For the past weeks, we have been exploring together how we as a community of faith and conscience can be different from the more individualist culture in which we find ourselves. Asking, what personal discomfort might we endure to heal the whole? Asking, how might we be willing to lose the way we have known? Or put another way, what sacrifices are we willing to make personally, professionally and even interpersonally for what we love?
We might easily imagine that making a sacrifice is something abstract or something beyond us or something outside us, but I think often, sacrifice is as small as being willing to be uncomfortable inside, for a bigger vision. This might be small but it is not insignificant. Having a difficult conversation that needs to be had. Extending grace or understanding when it would be easier to withdraw. Being willing to sit through a hard truth without filling the space. Having a direct conversation instead of hiding behind gossip or assumptions.
As a church, we are bound by a radical, beautiful, interconnected arrangement where we speak of ourselves as one body, with many members. And as commentator Jin S. Kim writes, this means that, “the church is a place of mutual interdependence, where each member is incomplete without the other, where the suffering of one is the suffering of all, and where the honor of one leads to the rejoicing of all. This also means that conflict between members not only affects the individuals involved but infects the entire community…”
“Take care of your homes, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual House.”
In the Gospel of Matthew we heard Jesus’ teaching about what to do when differences arise within the members of the spiritual house. He says, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” It is about being direct, being kind, being open, being honest. This begins the set of teachings called the Rule of Christ because as Estrella Horning contends “they redefine the goals of confrontation or intervention in seeking to rescue and forgive, to offer care in a spirit of humility.” And as Dale Andrews writes, “this discipline teaches a theology of care by illumining the manner of care.” He goes on, “Discipleship in Christ is conditioned by more than the sense of call and sacrifice in ministry to the world. Being in Christ involves living into the difficult discipline or discipleship of fellowship.” Or put another way, one of the core teachings of our tradition shows us how to care for ourselves and one another when the going gets rough.
“Take care of your homes, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual house.”
When Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven,” scholars believe he was speaking of the places where the law should be upheld and the places where it didn’t apply- where it should be loosed… I think maybe he is speaking of the difficult and daring work of discipleship between us, of the fluidity and flexibility required when we weave our spiritual journeys and our lives together.
A portal is an entrance, but we still have to get ourselves and one another to the doorway, which means we must take care of our bodies and our homes. We must take care of our faith and our fellowship with one another. I know you are broken down and tired, but we must slow down. We must take care. This is our strategy of survival and resistance.. We must sing and dance how we can. We must be flexible and forgiving with one another. And hear these words from White Eagle again: Take care! “Don’t feel guilty about being happy during this difficult time. You do not help at all being sad and without energy. You help if good things emanate from the Universe now. It is through joy that one resists. Also, when the storm passes, each of you will be very important in the reconstruction of this new world. You need to be well and strong. And, for that, there is no other way than to maintain a beautiful, happy and bright vibration. This has nothing to do with alienation. This is a resistance strategy… When you cross this portal, you get a new vision of the world, because you have faced your fears, your difficulties … This is what is asked of you: allow yourself to take advantage of this time to perform your vision seeking rituals. What world do you want to build for you?
In the meantime, let us do what we can to take care of ourselves and of others, we will get through this by resisting the pull of pessimism, resisting the tide of negativity. Let us pull one another out of holes- let us focus on being direct, being kind, being open, being honest, taking care. Let us aim for the Rule of Christ, to “redefine the goals of confrontation…to offer care in a spirit of humility.”
Slow down. “Take care of your homes, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual House. When you are taking care of yourselves, you are taking care of everything else.”
May it be so.