June 6, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 138
A funny thing happened on the way to preparing this sermon on the triumphs and tangles of Beloved Community. My almost-76 year old sister called to say that her boyfriend had asked her to marry him and she had said “yes” and would I do the wedding on her birthday, June 10 (Thursday) in Lakeland, Florida. I said I would. They want a short message.
Her fiancé is older than she and has requested that Carol process down the aisle to a 1901 wedding favorite “I Love You Truly” Written by Carrie Jacobs-Bond, who sang that song at the White House for Teddy Roosevelt, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge.
As I was thinking about what to say in my wedding message, Mary Ann reminded me that today I was setting out to preach about Beloved Community – Triumphs and Tangles! Interesting parallels!
The song and the idea of Beloved Community can both be rather sentimental and there is nothing wrong with that as long as we are willing and able to reach beyond sentiment and do the hard work of loving. Maybe the songwriter hinted at that when she said, “I love you TRULY!” Love as sentiment is not so hard, but love with a commitment to truth is another matter. Love in the church or at home without the ability to speak the truth to one another is only sentiment.
Exactly, then, what does this Beloved Community look like? What does it ask of us?
The first thing it asks is the recognition that WE ALL COME INTO THIS COMMUNITY BROKEN. We need a place to be healed.
So, I believe that we cannot settle until we create a loving environment where at a fundamental level we know we are safe. And secondly it is a place where we come to understand that we can be seen and known and still loved.
Those may seem like abstract concepts, so let me be more concrete.
One of the baselines for Beloved Community is TRUST. Here is where we practice saying what we mean and meaning what we say. We work to become people whose insides and outsides match. That is, we do our best to keep our promises, allowing for human frailties. Where our word means something. When we mess up, we fess up! We own our mistakes and we try hard to learn from them.
Always, we have a long way to go in building trust. Trust is such a fragile thing, but so essential in Beloved Community. But the more we attend to these baseline issues, the more apt we are to become a place where people come to be healed. The world is such a fickle and undependable place sometimes, and we all come here with varying degrees of woundedness.
Connected to that is the baseline value of TELLING THE TRUTH. That starts with the obvious things, but the closer we come to actually being a Beloved Community, the more truth we can dare to tell about ourselves. Truth telling is directly a result of trust building.
We all, I believe, want to be known. It is such a fundamental thing even when we deny that we want anyone else to know us. And no wonder! All of us have been horribly let down (broken) and betrayed by people with whom we have shared our hearts. We have concluded that the only way is to hide our true selves. The problem with that is that we NEVER can be loved for who we are while we are hiding.
I know what it is to risk exposing a piece of my inner self and to have that piece cherished and held precious. I also know what it is to hold a piece of another’s soul that has never seen the light of day and to keep that truth safe so that love can break through. Many of you know what that is like. So, then, Beloved Community can gradually become a place where I can tell my story and know that it will be held as precious and never betrayed. TELLING OUR STORY is such a sacred experience, even when it may seem trivial to the teller.
We are so handicapped when we do not know another’s story. We don’t know how to love! We assume we know, but we don’t. I don’t know the black story and I can only guess the black experience. I don’t know what it is to grow up poor – or to grow up rich. I don’t know what it is to be an immigrant or to be hungry or to lose a mate in death or to be imprisoned for something I didn’t do.
We all come together into this one community each with our own stories that explain and determine who we are. Compassion is so hit-and-miss until we hear each other’s story.
So, when I call on us to be Beloved Community, I’m not naive about how difficult and time-consuming that can be! It won’t happen overnight. We will always be learners. But we, in all of our variety, are nothing short of precious gifts to one another.
Unwrapped gifts! There is no gift we can give to each other that can compare to the gift of being beloved! And, for some reason, God only has you and me to work with. We have been put together to grow together and love one another more perfectly today than we did yesterday. It is a tedious and tangled journey, but one of the most rewarding journeys we will ever begin.
Let’s never stop!