Except for those who are the most narcissistic in our midst, there is a truth that most of us know. “I” am essentially vulnerable. “We” are much stronger. I have illustrated this in my ministry with children numerous times with the help of craft sticks. One stick breaks easily. With each stick that is added, it becomes increasingly difficult to break them. The lesson is about community, the more we are committed to be together the more strength and resilience we all experience. This is the essential lesson regarding the identity of the community of faith. The Kindom of God is all about the building and expanding of the beloved community. This lesson puts Christ, as the embodiment of God’s grace and presence, at the very center of the community. It doesn’t mean that community means we will never face adversity, pain or death. What it does mean is that the support, love and healing that comes from these relationships enables a greater resilience to walk the path through the fire.
Tribalism: When “We” Goes Wrong
The last few weeks, in which we have seen COVID 19 spikes and consistent protests seeking an end to systemic racism, we have experienced new depths to a troubling tribalism. When our “We” fosters a spirit of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ we end up with more conflict, not less. We end up causing more pain, not less. Too many voices in our culture justify this by dehumanizing and demonizing the “Them” that stand opposed to “Us”. What we have witnessed as both these realities played out in real time, is how deeply entrenched these attitudes have become. Basic facts are ignored as a way to maintain tribal identity. Simple science becomes politicized. Historical facts and lived experience are denied. In these moments we retreat behind our ramparts prepared to defend what is perceived to be “Ours”. Though we have discovered deep fissures in the culture at large, I do have hope. We realize that more and more people are embracing a commonness across previous tribal boundaries as we face these crises together.
The Faith We Proclaim
Since the pandemic began many of us are carrying burdens, weighty burdens, that we never expected to carry. I was hopeful, in the beginning, that this would last a matter of weeks. I expected a response to the dangers of the pandemic that would have mitigated it before now. As weeks have become months, with no clear end, the burdens are still there. While we are weary, our text for this week, from Matthew 11, gives us cause for a new and deep hope. Jesus says to his disciples, “Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. You will find rest for your souls.” Relief from the burden is realized when we embrace the “We” as a radically inclusive vision. Relief from the conflicts that have been born by generations of tribalism comes when we choose to center our life in Christ’s ministry of Kindom. When we share love, justice, mercy, reconciliation and compassion, out of a spirit of solidarity with others, across tribal boundaries we find a new way forward. This is our moment, as disciples of the risen Christ, to have a concrete impact toward reweaving our common bond.