It Takes a Village
When I began my reflection on our scripture text this morning I kept hearing Hillary Clinton’s voice in my head saying, “It takes a village…” While I agree with the idea that all of us working together cooperatively in society makes this a safer and better world for all of us, I am also aware of how difficult it can be to accomplish this kind of safe world. Two weeks ago, the leaders of Metropolitan Community Churches, our denomination, and the leaders of Fellowship, a primarily African-American cross-denominational movement announced the formation of a joint task force to move our two movements toward an historic collaboration.
The MCC/Fellowship leadership body declared solidarity and committed to work in unity on three objectives.
1. Resistance to and healing of religious and spiritual violence perpetrated against people who have traditionally lived at the margins of society, including people suffering from substance abuse; people living with HIV/AIDS and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and inter-sex people;
2. Radical and full inclusion of all people living at the margins of communities of faith and spiritual practice;
3. Commitment to the deep and challenging work toward reconciling the historical divisions in faith and religious communities created by racism, sexism, classism, serophobia and homophobia.
I am delighted by this example of leadership because it gives energy to reversing a trend in our world that creates enclaves of separation out of fear and it expands the village of who MCC is touching in ministry. It takes a village to create change.
This past week our nation witnessed the important milestone of the inauguration of President Barack Obama. It was a moving moment to watch the celebrations and history being made with the entire world watching on tiptoes. From Kenya to Europe to Asia the world has become one big village of hope. Another amazing fact, ABC News reported that even though the official estimate was somewhere close to 2 million people in Washington for the inauguration, the Secret Service reported “zero” inauguration-related arrests by any of its security partners. The village was apparently well-behaved.
Last Monday Rev. Robyn and I were at Pride Institute where we are now leading a weekly spirituality group. When we arrived several staff members came up to us and asked, “What happened at church yesterday?” For a brief instant I thought, “Oh crap, what happened this time that I missed?” The staff went on to say that the residents who attended last Sunday just came back very animated about church. When we arrived in group it was true, several people told us how meaningful worship and being part of this community is to them. Lots of them are here this morning and I want them to know how much Pastor Robyn and I appreciate their enthusiasm and encouragement. You are an important part of the village of All God’s Children.
It takes a village. I don’t know how parents manage it with children. Bill and I find dogs to be challenge enough. Whenever we travel, we depend on friends who stay at our home to help us look after our pups. We learn from others, receive encouragement, guidance and sometimes comfort. We require a village.
On Saturday the Red Ribbon Ride hosted an expo for potential riders and crew. It was a very festive gathering over at St. Joan of Arc. There was lots of energy and enthusiasm. It was a village of caring people who enjoy 2-wheel transportation. Their energy was inviting.
Last Sunday the Board met with Rev. Jeff Kjellberg, the consultant for our three-year “Blessed and Blessing Others” campaign. We’re now approaching the end of our second year of that campaign. Jeff has been a wonderful barometer to help keep us on task and moving forward. We laid out for him how the campaign has been going – the Would Jesus Discriminate piece, the new heating system – and he reminded us when we were first facing the task of raising $300,000 to replace the heating and ventilation system how overwhelming that appeared to us. In the last two years, our congregation has stretched itself to meet these challenges, even as we face bleak economic times. None of us knew how it would turn out and we still have a ways to go but have you noticed that every time God moves mightily it takes the village – all of us? Not any one of us could make everything happen but together we exponentially multiply the grace available.
Jesus gathered disciples from among the common people. Our text today from Mark tells us about the call of four of them. We don’t have any sense of why he chose these particular ones (maybe they just happened to be at the right place at the right time) but we do know that it seemed to be important to him to gather a community – to create a village – with whom he could live his journey of faith. Perhaps he recognized potential in these new disciples – yes, they would doubt, they would squabble with each other, ask him really stupid questions, and sometimes get in each other’s way – but all of them would play an important part in the village they created among themselves. Every village needs the experts, the technicians, the teachers, the healers, the leaders and, yes even the village idiot. This is a part of the village that can be passed around. I, myself, have played this part several times. Anybody who speaks in public will have ample opportunity to try on the idiot dunce cap. I found some notable examples:
Christina Aguilera was overheard asking the “Saturday Night Live” cast backstage, “So where is the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his 2003 gubernatorial interview with Sean Hannerty said, “I believe gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.”
Nicole Richie, in a 2007 Nylon magazine interview said, “When I pictured heroin, I pictured some crazy crackhead with no shoes under a bridge. You never think that is going to be you. And it never was me. I was never under a bridge, and I always had shoes.”
Axl Rose, in a Rolling Stone interview, notes, “It’s really hard to maintain a one-on-one relationship if the other person is not going to allow me to be with other people.”
But my favorite Village Idiot quote has to go to Brooke Shields who during her interview to become the national anti-smoking spokesperson said, “Smoking kills. And if you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.”
Villages come in many forms – a denomination reaching out to heal divisions, a world celebrating a new leader, a local church that works through the nitty-gritty of daily faithfulness to be a human touch of God’s grace to those who enter our lives, and a community of people who have cast their mutual lot (through good and bad, difficulty and peace) to journey in faith together. It takes a village.
From the most primitive times of human development, there seems to be this innate draw toward community – whether it is part of our survival instinct or the genius of God’s handiwork to help us work together – we seem to be constructed as humans toward a village. Jesus chose those people he gathered around him to form his village network. We choose those we have gathered around us to do the same. We will wear many hats and play many roles in our village together, but I want you to know how very grateful I am that all of you are my village.
www.homileticsonline.com A Little Help From Friends, January 2009.