the whole world


Recently, my wisdom teeth were removed. Since then, I’ve been cooped up in my basement, vegging on…liquids, and feeling sorry for myself. Well, that’s marginally true.

I’ve actually applied for a job, went to various malls, caught up with old friends, and learned how to Dougie. Actually, I haven’t learned how to Dougie, but it is on my To Do list, that I don’t have.

Once upon a time I tried to create a To Do list. It was right after I got a Blackberry and thought that I had to be a corporate b-word to match my phone. I became inclined to wear blazers and constantly check my watch. I wanted to utilize the To Do function in my phone, so I started to write down all my tasks of the day.

I was 15.

At 7 A.M. my Blackberry would ring, reminding me to ‘wake up.’ Then, fifteen minutes later, I’d receive a reminder labeled ‘Urgent’ instructing me to brush my teeth. This continued for three days until the blazers started to become uncomfortable and I would get reminders to ‘not dance awkwardly like you do sometimes to Fergie songs’ and to ‘eat something hearty.’

I tell you this story as an example of how boring my life can be.

But consider that a not-so-proper introduction to the following.

This is a talk I gave in church(heavy stuff) and feel that it’s good to share to all of my many  blog-followers…sarcasm doesn’t translate well through technology. So to clarify(in a sarcastic voice): …to all of my many blog-followers.

Low and behold:

Tolerance is the pure love and acceptance of all people– an idea that involves discipline, especially in the world today which is so focused on criticism and fault-finding.

I think that the underlying problem is that we don’t understand our oneness, the fact that we really are all one. We think that we can be one with our families and friends who share the same faith and uphold the same morals, but separate from others who surround us.

In the book ‘The Patron Saint of Liars’, Rose Clinton and her daughter Cecilia work at Saint Elizabeth’s Home for Unwed Mothers in Habit, Kentucky. Rose is the cook and Cecilia is the darling of the place, petted and mothered by all the young mothers who will give up their own babies for adoption. One May day when she is fifteen, Cecilia meets one of the new girls who has come to St. Elizabeth’s, Loraine. Loraine is skinny with red curls and is about to have a nervous breakdown as she waits to be interviewed by Mother Corinne, the nun of the place. Cecilia decides to help her out by giving her some advice.

“The guy who got you pregnant” she tells Loraine “don’t say he’s dead. Everybody does that and it makes Mother Corinne crazy.”

Loraine ponders that for a quiet minute “I was going to say that,” she said “so what do I tell her?”

I don’t know says Cecilia, Tell her the Truth, or tell her you don’t remember.””

“Well, what did you tell her?” Loraine asks, and Cecilia is speechless.

“I sat there, frozen” she wrote later. “I felt like I had just been mistaken for an escaped mass murderer. I felt like I was going to be sick, but that would have only proven her assumption. No one had ever, ever mistaken me for one of them, not even as a joke.”

It was because she had been mistaken for one of them; one of the weak people whose bad decisions had derailed their lives. In theological terms, Cecilia was shocked because she was mistaken for a sinner—it was not like she disliked sinners. She had grown up with them. She was friendly and helpful and she gave them good advice. She had just never expected to be mistaken for one of them because, in her mind, she was another order of being.

But she isn’t. Loraine may have been wrong about Cecilia’s pregnancy, but she wasn’t wrong to think that they are in the same boat together. At least that’s what Paul told us when he taught us about the body of Christ. Let’s talk about what he said:

In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul compares the church to a human body. It’s a strong image, because each of us is a body and so we know what he is talking about.

There are all kinds of things inside of us that we need without thinking about them at all, at least until one of them gets sick and has to come out. Few us get up in the morning, thanking God for our hamstrings, our collarbone, our mitochondria. I don’t even know the name of half the things that keep me alive, but that doesn’t bother them. They go right on keeping me alive in spite of my alarming ignorance.

Paul knew he could get people’s attention by talking about their bodies. He was trying to get across the point that what was true inside their skin was also true outside of it—that wholeness was a matter of many different parts pulling together and each doing their job; that our survival depends not on our sameness but our infinite variety.

This is easy to say when speaking about my internals, I rejoice in the differences between my liver and kneecap and would never want them to do the same job. But the problem begins when you put me in a community of people who look, smell, think, talk, and act differently from me;  people who challenge my established routines, my cherished but often incorrect beliefs, and my prejudices.

Yet Paul wrote: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all that members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.”

Note that Paul doesn’t say that we are like the body of Christ, but that we are the body of Christ—we all are.

God is not waiting for any of us to decide who is in or out, it’s not our call, it’s beyond our consent or liking. We are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  This includes people we may find disagreeable or offensive, people who may not share our beliefs, people who have hurt us—they are all members of Christ’s body—though they may be as hard to accept as cancer or a blocked artery.

Most of the time we live as though this interconnectedness were a fond illusion, but there is a distinct possibility that it is our separateness that is the illusion instead. There is an old Middle Eastern saying that says: “You think that because you understand one you must also understand two, because one and one make two. But, in truth, you must also learn to understand and.

And. The great connector. You AND me. Him AND her. Them AND us. I’ll assume you can figure out who AND is—who knits all our separateness together, who is the author of our wholeness. He’s the one who, to quote the old spiritual, has got the WHOLE WORLD in His hands.

Merry Christmas eve-eve-eve, folks!


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