l e s s o n s f r o m t h e c r i b 2 : you can't do it alone Rev. Brent Wright B r o a d R i p p l e U M C

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1 l e s s o n s f r o m t h e c r i b 2 : you can't do it alone Rev. Brent Wright B r o a d R i p p l e U M C Romans 13:8-10 (Message) Don t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code don t sleep with another person s spouse, don t take someone s life, don t take what isn t yours, don t always be wanting what you don t have, and any other don t you can think of finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love. Matthew 18:15-20 If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 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. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. Rev. Brent Wright 1 Broad Ripple UMC

2 The two passages from the New Testament assigned for this Sunday in the Lectionary Cycle are easy pickings for moralistic, here's-how-to-be-a-good-little- Christian sermons, and I'm sure you can find the basic moral instructions in both texts. Paul is telling the community in Rome that debt can be a bad thing, and Jesus is helping his listeners to consider what it looks like to engage conflict and moral accountability in a grace-based community: it takes lots of effort, over and over, to hold a wrong-doer accountable and maintain relationship at the same time. But this is Labor Day weekend, the annual time when we pause to remember that our way of life is built on the sweat of generations of workers, and that our capitalist system can, when unchecked, tend to abuse workers. As I read these two texts in the light of Labor Day weekend and in light of the primary labor in my own life these days that of raising my 2-month-old son I see something different in them than simple moral prescriptions. I see the reminder that we're all in this together. Paul reminds the Roman Christian communities that the Law is all about loving others, that Jesus showed us through his life, death, and resurrection that the core of everything is love the love that binds communities together. And Jesus himself, in teaching about how to handle the conflicts and injuries that are inevitable in community life, summed up by telling his listeners that what happens in community matters: 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. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. People being together matters in a cosmic way, because in community is the presence of God itself. The Divine happens when people are together. This is a profound statement in Jesus's ancient Jewish context, because his ancestors had literally carried what they understood to be the actual dwelling place of God, the Tabernacle, with them through the wilderness, and then they understood after settling the Promised Land that God dwelt in the Holy of Holies at the core of the Temple in Jerusalem. So Jesus saying that wherever people gathered in God's name, God was there, was a radical statement of the way humanity and divinity work: in human community is the presence of the living God. There's no magic to it, and it's not about the worthiness of the gathering. It's about the Rev. Brent Wright 2 Broad Ripple UMC

3 generosity of God with God's presence. The Divine is present when people are together. And when I hear that on Labor Day weekend, I'm reminded of the profound truth that we need each other as much as we need God. Or that our need for each other is our need for God. Or that our need for God is expressed in our need for each other. Or to put it another way: you can't do it alone. This is a truth I've seen over and over in my life, but never as starkly as I do now as a new father. This sermon is part of my occasional Lessons From the Crib series because having a baby is the most visceral experience of dependence on others, of inability to handle things on my own, of needing help I've ever had. It's not the first, of course; some other experiences of you can't do it alone that come to mind: having a gallbladder attack & surgery, facing some personal demons with a counselor and support group, learning the basics of engineering & education & theology in school (most especially finishing my physics courses for teaching certification thank you Dr. Taylor at the University of Colorado!), and there are endless smaller examples of experiencing the deep truth that I can't do it alone. But nothing else in my life compares to having a baby. This is the first time in my life someone else has been completely dependent on me, and in such a demanding way. I know to a depth I've never experienced before that I would break, that I would come apart without help. And the truth is this is a reality that is much more broadly true in my life than I want to admit. I would break without help. I would come apart without help. It's true in my health. It's true in my vocation. It's true in my marriage. It's even true in my life apart from others, when it comes to living my own private life without help from others I would self-destruct. Now, this self-destruction, this falling apart, this breaking would likely be very slow. My marriage could last quite a while before we spun apart. My career as clergy could go on for years before I burned out. My private life wouldn't implode this month, but I've seen enough in myself to know that it would, eventually, without the support and intervention of God through others. Having a baby is the same story, just on a much more dramatic scale and timeframe. Without help, my care for my son would fall apart in a matter of weeks, if not days. It's like Graham forces me to face the truth much quicker than any other circumstance I've ever experienced. (...Well, the gallbladder attack was pretty immediate and intense ) There's no faking it for months or years with Graham. I can limp along in lots of other areas of my life, pretending that I can handle it on my own, but not as a dad. I get clear about my need for someone outside myself or I fall apart. Rev. Brent Wright 3 Broad Ripple UMC

4 What about you? What circumstances in your life have driven home your need of others? What experiences have made clear the truth that you can't do it alone? And it's important to recognize: this isn't only true at the personal, individual level. You can't do it alone is true in community, too. This lesson from the crib is a word for us as a congregation. First, this congregation itself can't happen on the efforts of any individual (or small group). Sure, that's obvious, but I challenge you to try to notice the ways in which such an irrational expectation creeps into your thinking anyway. It's easy to forget that a church is nothing more than a simple commune, an intentional community of folks who pool their resources to provide space and leadership for their life together. That's one of the reasons I hesitate to use the word church in some contexts; the word church points to an institution separate from you. But BRUMC is ultimately an intentional community of disciples living spiritual life together. We're a congregation, a bunch of people who pool our resources to provide a space and leadership for our common life as disciples. When we get focused on "The Church," many of us tend to assume that BRUMC is an institution that provides services to me. I can contribute to BRUMC or not and this is true of time, talent, and treasure and it will be there regardless to provide services. In no way does an institution need me or depend on me. But if BRUMC is simply a community, an intentional community of folks who pool resources to do stuff, then my presence, my generosity, my participation, my contribution matters. The congregation can't do it alone. Not without you. And BRUMC can't do it alone as a church. That's why we're part of a connectional denomination. In the United Methodist Church, no congregation does it alone. We are part of ministries that extend far beyond our own hands and hearts. Through UMCOR, we care for those affected by disasters. Through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, we help finance and train the next generation of leaders for society and the church. Through the General Board of Church and Society, we work for justice and equality for all people. We're part of a community of United Methodists here in Indiana that is seeking to shine God's light in our own city and state. We can't do it alone as a congregation. This Labor Day, as I reflect on the fact that I rely on workers to grow and transport every bit of food that I eat, to capture and purify and deliver every drop of water I use, to build and maintain my house, to maintain my car and the roads it needs, to grow the fibers and manufacture and transport and sell the clothes on my back, to design and build the technology I use to interact with the world, to create the art Rev. Brent Wright 4 Broad Ripple UMC

5 and entertainment that enhance my heart and soul, I'm reminded that I can't live my life alone. As I reflect on what it means to worship and live my spiritual life as part of BRUMC, I'm reminded that I can't live my spiritual life alone. As I reflect on what it means to call myself a follower of Jesus Christ, I'm reminded that I can't do it alone. And Jesus's announcement of the presence of God whenever people gather is grace to me. I don't have to figure out how to do this thing called life. I don't have to master some mysterious formula to have a relationship with my Creator and ongoing spiritual life, I just need to recognize that I need others, and whenever I connect with them, God is there in the midst of us. That's what we tasted in communion. That's what we live in worship. That's what God calls us to live in every aspect of our life. May we have the grace to know this truth about how God made us to work, this lesson from the crib. Rev. Brent Wright 5 Broad Ripple UMC