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Call to Worship
As we gather for worship, we gather in joy
All: For in our infirmity, we find God is our strength.
As we gather for worship, we are comforted
All: That God comes to us at the point of our need.
As we gather for worship, we are assured
All: That God comes to ordinary people with extraordinary Good News.
As we gather for worship we call upon God’s name
All: Trusting that God will be revealed this hour.
As we gather for worship, we seek the Good News
All: Believing in the Gospel and trusting in Abundant life.
Adapted from (http://www.brethren.org/disabilities/documents/calls-to-worship.pdf) by David S.Young, Board Member Lighthouse Vocational Services
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to
the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
- Metta Prayer
The Wisdom of Michael J Fox
“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
Philippians 2.3, 5, 8-9
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility be mindful of others… Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who… humbled himself at great personal cost, even losing his life. Therefore God highly exalted him…
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, O God; mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made us divine and crowned us with glory and honor.”
Click on the audio bar below to hear the audio.
Our first reading speaks of the dignity of every human being. The final question in the Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church is this, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” The answer, “I will with God’s help. “ It is no accident that working for justice and peace among all people is inserted before the question of respecting the dignity of every human being. By working for justice and peace among all people we quite naturally come to respect the dignity and sanctity of human life. When we come to terms with the realities that we have witnessed in the news this week about refugees fleeing war and violence in Syria and see what disregarding human dignity looks like, its easy to connect working for justice and peace to human dignity.
Michael J. Fox knows a thing or two about people staring at him in public and making all kinds of assumptions about what’s “wrong” with him. His very public battle with Parkinson’s disease has made him the target of assumptions about everything from his sobriety to his mental capacity.
Today he reminds us that our dignity may be attacked, ridiculed, and worst of all, ignored but it remains in tack as long as we do not surrender our dignity to another, as long as we do not buy in to the idea that we are worthless. The migrants moving into Europe to escape violence and almost certain death in Syria have shown us what this looks like. And the body of a 3 year old washed up on a beach this week shows us the potential cost as well.
But the migrants have showed us what real human dignity looks like in the face of long odds. Many survived over crowded boats and risked the lives of their children to try to offer them a better life. They have endured tricks and taunts, police riot squads, hunger, thirst, cold and exhaustion. But they persevere. The human spirit prevails against all odds as long as we refuse to give up.
Our second reading has been and continues to be misunderstood by some of our Christian brothers and sisters. Note the definition of humanity says, “In theology humility [is] lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence from sin, and submission to divine will.”
Worm Theology is a term used for the idea in Christian culture that in light of God's holiness and power an appropriate emotion is a low view of self. Some might suggest that because of this view God is more likely to show mercy and compassion to those who cultivate this idea from Psalm 22.6 that heard my entire childhood in the King James Version:” I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”
Worm theology is one of the most spiritually abusive Christian perspectives because it robs us of our human dignity for making mistakes. Children and adults alike learn from making mistakes. Making mistakes is part of life, an important part of life. Shame has no place in ours or other’s evaluation of our mistakes. As I was taught in 12 step rooms, I make mistakes, I’m not a mistake. But how can we be sure?
Humility described in our second reading today does not mean that we must be humiliated to be humble. Humility does not include becoming a doormat for anyone who comes along. So again we must be wary of the kind of Worm Theology that teaches we are sinful and broken by default. Again, how can we be assured of this in the face of what most of us were taught as children in most Christian denominations?
The answer is found within the sacred texts of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in Genesis 1:27 paraphrased here for inclusive language from the New International Version, “… God created [human]kind in God’s own image, in the image of God [they were] created …; male and female [God] created them.” If God is love then we are created in the image of love, from love, for love, for the purpose of spreading God’s love throughout the world. There is no room in this divine equation for shaming worm theology that robs us and others of our worth and human dignity made in the image of God.
The great teacher and prophet Mahatma Gandhi said, “[We] must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” We live in an age of 24 hour cable and internet news that spews forth all the dirtiness of the world with only a passing glance at the humanity expressed in the world every single day. Maybe at the end of a broadcast we get one story about kindness or compassion. So it becomes our job, our responsibility to fill our minds with goodness and hope and compassion. We must take our eye off the oil washed up on the shore long enough to see the larger ocean that is clear and clean and then turn back toward the work that needs to be done.
Humanity has three definitions that relate directly to the human condition. It can describe the whole of humankind. It can describe the fact that we are human. And exhibiting humanity looks like kindness, compassion, and love. If we are made in the image and likeness of the creator of the universe then how we view that creator and what we teach our children about that creator is of utmost importance. Our sacred texts show us how humans have made God in their image… fickle, conditional, angry, and vengeful. It’s time we acknowledge that our Christian tradition has more often concentrated on the negative portions of scripture than the positive. After all, Incarnational Theology is about coming to terms with not only our shortcomings but our divinity.
When I can lighten up on myself, I am able to lighten up on others because I know my inner process and I can more easily give others the benefit of the doubt rather than judging them harshly. It is essential that we come to terms with our mistakes and shortcomings to be sure. And it is equally important that we remember that we were made in the image and likeness of God, made from love, for love, to love.
That knowledge will keep us ever alert to the images of humanity with which we are presented every day. All we need to do is carry our mandate to work for justice-love into the world. And there we will find the stories of real people that don’t show up on our television and internet news feeds. Working for justice is what puts us in touch with our own humanity and allows us to see the divine spark in all of humanity. Amen.