In(ter)dependence

* a sermon preached at Luther Memorial Church of Chicago on July 5, 2015 *

Text: Ephesians 1:1-14

***************

Please pray with me:

Holy One,
Reveal in us the mystery of your will.
Through Christ, redeem us,
And reconcile us to each other,
And to you.
Amen.

***************

I like families. I do. I’ve preached about families before. I’ve preached about families before from this pulpit. So some of this won’t be completely new material. When I think about my own family, I would say we’re fun, we’re adventurous, we compliment each other well, and we’re very supportive of each other. Generally speaking, I like families. I’m a big fan.

And…I think we all know that families aren’t always all of those things. Families can be tough. Families are complex creatures. Sometimes families are hurtful. Sometimes families are damaging and destructive. Sometimes families are fractured.

And so how do we understand our place in the midst of this great family of God that seeks to address, rather than cover up, the parts of this family that are hurtful, damaging, or destructive, and endeavors to love, support, and care for each other?

I read a story last week about Ben Affleck. It was about a program on PBS about uncovering the ancestries of celebrities. Apparently, in their research, it came up that one of Ben’s ancestors was a slave owner, and, like I imagine any of us would want to do, Ben and the producers tried to conceal that fact.
See, being honest about ourselves and our histories is risky business. It can be painful.

And it’s not just our histories that we’d necessarily like to scrub, the past two and a half weeks haven’t exactly been banner. At least 7 predominantly black churches burning, half being investigated as arson. At least 7 people dead, including a 7-year-old boy, and 39 wounded in our city, just in past 2 days…

Being honest about ourselves, about who we are and the world we live in…it can be painful.

But hear this, dear people, you are children of God. You are a daughter. You are a son. Adopted by God. You are God’s own child. You are God’s chosen. Known to and so deeply loved by God before even the foundations of the world were laid.

And furthermore, you have been given unfathomable gifts. Riches of innumerable value. Blessings of unimaginable worth.

The temptation, of course, is to stockpile these away, to hoard them for ourselves. Our independent and individualistic ethos compels us to think this way. Building our walls higher and our defenses stronger, shutting out the rest of the world, “those people” who we think don’t get it, who we think aren’t deserving of God’s gifts.

But just like a family is more than its individual members, so, too, is this community, more than our individual selves. The writer of Ephesians is speaking to a group of Christ followers. A community of people making their way along the way. So while we here this morning might have heard Paul’s poem of blessing with our singularly-focused, independent ears, the Christ-believing communities of the ancient world were listening with ears toward interdependence. Blessings and promises for the community itself, sure, but always with an ear toward the larger community of which they were a part.

Do you see the difference? Independence focuses on the individual and the singular. Independence might even focus on a group of people, like the groups we hold in memory this weekend, our forebears, our veterans, our servicewomen and men… But a focus on independence has a tendency to neglect the relationship of the community and the individual to the larger whole.

Paul is speaking to a different way of being. One that recognizes our interdependence: the ways in which we are interconnected. The ways in which all of us are created from the very same stardust and will return to the very earth from which we were birthed. A way of being that is cultivated in an awareness of just how big and vast this web of humanity goes.

And if that’s the case, if our lives are that intricately linked, then we have a responsibility, not just to ourselves, or our own family, or our community, but we, in fact, have an obligation to ensure that these blessings and promises enumerated by Paul are made known and made manifest in all of God’s creation.

Because if our lives are so intricately linked, then our well-being is certainly linked. And if my wellness is tied to your wellness, then my freedom is necessarily bound to yours.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one…affects all. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Are we really free if there remain those who aren’t? If racism still runs rampant in our country? If death and violence are still the norm for our children?

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

But Paul has good news for us this morning, “In the fullness of time, God will restore all things, every thing on earth and in heaven.

God’s vision, God’s will, is to restore all of God’s creation. And if my liberation and freedom is intricately tied to yours, then that is good news indeed.

God is redeeming all things.
God is reconciling the entire creation to God’s own self.

Celebrate your interdependence today.

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