|Onions. I’m not a huge fan of raw onions, but heat them in a little olive oil for about ten minutes and they become sweet, caramelized onions—one of this life’s most delicious treats. Of course, most of us cannot think onion without thinking of the movie Shrek, and the self-description of the main character who likens himself, and his ogre-kind, to onions—having lots of layers. Indeed the whole movie revolves around the building of true community, going beyond the surface into the richness of knowing and being known.
We’ve been doing a lot around community at St. Simon’s, around deepening the bonds between us over these past two years. This isn’t a commitment that you hold for awhile and then are somehow ‘finished’. It is a value, a way of life that is grounded in the wisdom of Jesus that loving one another, truly, deeply, beyond the surface we present one another, is loving God. Over and over we’ve created opportunities for us to talk about what matters to us, and the First Sunday Eucharist and Forums have been just that—moments when we’ve shared and listened, caramelizing all of us in the process.
It is tempting for most of us—and the water in which we swim encourages this—to stay on the surface of life, of relationships, even of our faith. Yes, I’m a Christian, but saying that doesn’t really ask anything of us. Coming and going for a ‘holy moment’ of liturgy isn’t what Jesus asks of us. He doesn’t say ‘worship me.’ He says, ‘follow me.’ But what does that even mean in 21st century America?
This Sunday at 9:30am is a First Sunday, and our Thrive Accountability Group, or TAG, has been working hard to create an environment that is welcoming and engaging for all ages. The new Children’s Chapel at the beginning of the morning and the Faith in Action opportunity at the end—don’t forget the special treats along the way—provides a context for our youngest members to engage in fun ways to deepen their connections with each other and with the Holy One.
Older youth and adults will share in worship together and then move to the forum to talk about what is at the heart of Christianity, using Marcus Borg’s book The Heart of Christianity as a springboard. At the heart of our faith, when you peel back the layers, is a mystery known as the trinity—three reflections of the Holy One. Paul talks about the many parts of the body that make up the one whole. True community goes beyond the surface of ‘we’re all Christians’ and invites us to share how we find and claim our unity even as we recognize and honor the differences in our midst.
What First Sunday is not: a grilling session on your beliefs, nor a critique on the merits of the book, nor even whether you’ve read it or not! What will it be? After a brief reminder of the richness and diversity of those who have walked before us, it will be a chance talk about how we live with difference, what helps us to do so and what value is gained when we take that risk with one another.
We are inundated with messages encouraging us to hang out with people who are like us, who are in our tribe—just think about the deeply partisan political situation today. Living that way limits our potential as human beings. It is so easy to remain on the outside, to be the critic in life, rather than ‘to be in the arena,’ as researcher and author Brené Brown encourages us to do. Human beings yearn for deep connection and belonging. First Sundays are invitations to engage in that alchemy of conversation and time together that enriches and transforms, a chance to be real together and to sweeten the true community we are committed to being.
I’m so looking forward to our special community gathering this First Sunday from 9:30-11:30am, and I hope you will enrich the morning and our community by your presence.
Hope to see you Sunday,