When you crack open a hard boiled egg you find inside, between the shell and the white of the egg, a thick lining material. This lining is connective tissue. Our human bodies also have connective tissue. This connective tissue runs like a sweater through our bodies, between the skin and muscles, through the muscles to organs and bones. The connective tissue helps hold in place our abdominal organs. And, just as it sounds, the connective tissue runs in and through our entire body, providing the means for inter-connectedness. A body worker, like a massage therapist, works with the connective tissue whenever she or he gives a massage. Body workers recognize that a tightness in one part of the body may be related to a condition in another part of the body, called referred pain. Our bodies are profoundly connected, muscle, bone, organ, skin, through the connective tissue.
Often, when we experience some kind of pain or discomfort, we may self diagnose the symptom and treat it without really wondering how this symptom might be a part of some deeper or more wide spread problem.
Take for instance a headache. We get a headache and in response most of us will take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. This usually makes the head ache go away and we feel better.
Many of us may ponder why we have the headache. What is the underlying cause? Maybe its stress, something in our lives is causing us to be stressed out and the subsequent symptom we feel in our bodies is a headache. Or maybe its hormones, some of us experience a cycle of headaches connected to our hormonal system. Or maybe we have allergies and the headache is a symptom of our environment.
But how many of us accurately assess the cause and treat it rather than the symptom?
If we only treat the symptom we miss the opportunity to take care of the problem at its source. We miss the opportunity to respond to the stress in our lives in a more effective way by either reducing the stress or reducing our experience of that stress. Maybe, in response we will slow our lives down, do less, get massages, meditate. Or maybe we will exercise to reduce the impact of stress on our bodies. Regardless, when we look at the cause rather than just treating a symptom, we are able to respond more effectively.
The same is true for our communities.
At St. Hilary’s we can assume that the source of our discomfort is lack of money and not enough people here. But I think the real source of our discomfort is some place else, and these other two are only symptoms of the real problem. I have my suspicions; and because of my expertise, I may even have diagnosed this place correctly. But what I want at this time is for all of you, by attending the vestry meetings reviewing the surveys, by reading Christianity for the Rest of Us, by forming a common language, and by having conversations with one another, I want you all to make some educated guesses as to what is at the heart of our discomfort.
In the process I encourage you all to do four things: 1. Keep a sense of humor, the ability to laugh at ourselves and at our situation can enable us to see the situation with greater clarity. 2. Avoid the tendency to be complacent, be willing to get involved. 3. Avoid the tendency to be complicit, speak up – your perspective may just be what we need to hear. And lastly, be invested in treating the cause and not just the symptom.
Ok, so humor, here is a joke to get us started:
The Pope dies and, naturally, goes to heaven where he's met by a reception committee of angels. After a whirlwind tour, The Pope is told that he can enjoy any of the myriad recreations available.He decides that he wants to read all of the ancient original text of the Holy Scriptures, so he spends the next eon or so learning the languages.After becoming a linguistic master, he sits down in the library and begins to pour over every version of the Bible, working back from the most recent "Easy Reading" to the original handwritten script.The angel librarian hears a loud scream, and goes running toward its source only to find the Pope huddled in a chair, shaking and crying."The R! They left out the R!""What do you mean?" the angel librarian asks. After collecting his wits, the Pope sobs again, "The word is not CELIBATE, but CELEBRATE!"
With a sense of humor we remember that things are seldom as they seem. It’s good to remember that we can misunderstand and misinterpret… And it’s good to laugh at ourselves and the ways we stifle the energy of the Holy Spirit.
2. Avoid being complacent: come to the meetings, participate in the conversations, read the book, be invested in this discerning process. You may just find it energizing and interesting.
3. Avoid being complicit: as humans we sometimes choose to just be quiet, not to make waves, to not invest ourselves in an outcome, and essentially not to care. I ask you to care, to care deeply, and to get involved in our future and the way we hope to make a difference in the world.
4. be invested in the process and in the outcome in a way that anticipates some life transforming outcome. God is alive in this world and in our lives, and embodiment is the primary way we understand this. God came to us in the incarnation, in the person of Christ. This assures us that God is invested in the process and the outcome, and so should we.
As a people, as individuals and as a community, we come to know the fullness of who we are through our living, through our bodies. As Christians we are the body of Christ, the living presence of God in the world. As humans we are all interconnected, one to another. When one part of our body hurts, we all hurt. When people around the world are suffering from poverty, disease, and other injustices, we all suffer. Like a snag in a sweater which pulls threads in other areas, when part of our humanity suffers, we all experience it.
This may seem odd. We may not be aware of how we are suffering, But the Spirit, which lives and breathes in and through us, carries that suffering. It fills our lives, those of us who are not the victims of poverty and disease, those of us who live with relative wealth and security, the spirit carries to us this communal suffering. Perhaps we experience it as a general sense of dissatisfaction with our lives. Perhaps it is what makes us restless. Perhaps it is what drives us to find something to do to make our lives feel meaningful. Like working on some pain in our bodies, the real source of that discomfort may not be the obvious place, it often comes from a complex combination of imbalances. Remember that we at this church are deeply connected to a phenomenon of human suffering in the world today – our symptoms manifest something deeper. As a global human community we have not acquired a holistic sense of connectedness, even though it is exists, we live unaware of it.
As we work to know ourselves better let’s focus on that which connects to us the larger human condition, to that place where the Spirit leads us, a place of wholeness and well-being. When we find the source that is causing all the other symptoms we can work to relieve the imbalance and restore order.
The means to heal our brokenness we must first focus on the woundedness of the world.