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Moment to Movement: Difference Welcome

On mother's day, it's very natural to turn our attention to the world of parenting.

  • For those of you who have given birth, I can't imagine what it's like to get to know a child that you had known so intimately for a period of time.
  • One of the most exciting parts of the early part of parenting is getting to know the personality of a child over time.
  • Often found this one of the most interesting parts of parenthood. It feels like a perpetual roll of the dice to get a sense of where our kids are different or similar to us.
  • That's probably a good thing. If our children were carbon copy clones of each of us, the role of parenting would be pretty boring. We'd simply download a series of do's and don'ts onto our children, and then we'd be done with parenting after that.
  • But, instead, it seems to be more like a guiding. It reminds me a lot of the Dorothy Law Nolte poem:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

  • Parenting seems less often about the details, but about the common language we can share - if we can show our children common threads of what it means to live well in the world, then their difference just simply adds color to the world. And as color, those differences can be celebrated and not hidden away.
  • Of course, this gets harder and harder the more we age. Our weariness of others can cause us to start to take these guides and harden them into impenetrable boundaries. We create castles of similarity to hold against the tides of difference. The last few days in particular have drawn sharp relief to this since the leak of the Supreme Court decision. I've heard multiple people double down on positions and just seem incredulous to understand how someone could possibly have a differing opinion than them on something that seems so clear. And certainly, more recent partisanship leads us to get into camps of similarity to the point where we see others as enemies. This has reverberated into the church as well. What used to be only jokingly referred to as the most racially segregated hour of the week now more often than not can simply be the most tribalized hour in America.
  • Based on the the sermon title, however, it should be no surprise that it seems that for the easter moment to become an easter movement, difference had to have been welcomed into the church.
    • In our OT story, we can see how the range of similarity and difference can have consequences
      • We can appreciate the urge as we do today to want to be in a place that is similar - it's been happening for millennia!
      • And once again, the towers are closed. That similarity is meant as defensive.
      • God then decides it isn't the best approach, and scatters the people through the loss of a shared language.
      • This should make us pause for a second, and maybe question a little what God has done. By now no longer having a common bond in which to relate to each other, the difference has become so great that they are not connecting at all, in spite of the fact that we imagine they had much to share before. So it seems like having some common language is important.
      • It's often why it is so sad that the church has almost lost its ability to be that at times - but I think it's when we lose our symbols and the connections they make.
        • I know I go here a lot, but it bears repeating: when we go through the liturgy, when we meet the sacraments, we can transcend difficulties in language and find common ground. Things like being loved beyond measure. Being broken, yes, but given grace without hesitation in that brokenness. That there is community and growth here. Those needs and desires are beyond mere words but speak to the depths of our hearts in the human experience that make us the same. It's the Nolte poem enacted weekly, and we are still children at the feet of Jesus.
      • It's also interesting to think about what that may mean if a church - or any body is too similar - eventually, it will be broken up.
    • We can see how that common bond transcends human difference with Jesus today.
      • This story builds out of the Samaritan woman at the well.
        • She's set at as someone who we need to hear as completely unlikable, and likely unhelpful to the gospel
          • She's Samaritan, which the Jewish people of the day thought were suspect, and
          • She has apparently had 5 husbands. While the text doesn't tell us why (and there are myriad reasons perhaps why), we often make interpretations as to why.
          • But they find commonality in care, in hope of worship. That transcends the difference
          • Where our text finds us is after the conversation at the well: we find the disciples stunned into silence, but also in curiosity.
          • And what Jesus explains in the moment becoming movement, even in the midst of difference. After all, it would be easy to think that the gospel would stay within the sect where it begins, but Jesus knew that by overcoming the differences we place on others, the deeper messages would grow.
  • How are we able to live less like Babel and more like Jesus?
    • It might be as simple as connection. Keep in mind that Jesus meets to the woman at the well, a public place.
    • And for many reasons, it would have been easier to not speak to her, but he does anyway.
    • And I wonder how we can be able to meet and tell one another stories so we can find our similarities and difference
    • We've done some of that already - our 904ward event was a chance to hear stories of difference, but we also found a lot of similarities
    • We also have members of SJPC who meet regularly with a daughters of Abraham group - bringing together Jewish and Muslim neighbors as well to find out difference and similarity.
    • The more that we seek to allow our walls to be permeable, the less we're like Babel, and the less likely in our similarity we're dispersed anyway.