Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bone of My Bones, by Rev Steven R Mitchell, Mountain View United, Aurora, CO

Bone of My Bones

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 10/7/2012

Based on Genesis 2:18-23

Last week, I took a study week away from the office. Paul and I drove up into the mountains near the Allens Park area and stayed at the Presbyterian Highlands Camp and Retreat Center. As we were coming back home at the end of the week we were enjoying the beautiful colors of the Aspen trees, chatting in light conversation as we wound our way out of the mountains. Once we were on the flats I noted a decrease in the speed limit to 40 miles per hour. I slowed down to about 36 MPH, still in light conversation with Paul. As I looked into my rear view mirror, I noticed a patrol car speeding up behind me with his emergency lights flashing. I rounded the corner thinking he was going straight, but to my surprise he was stopping me.

His first question to me was, “Do you know why I have stopped you, sir?” I responded with, “No officer I haven’t a clue as to why you have stopped me.” “Sir, do you know what the speed limit was back on the road you just turned off of?” “Well officer, I thought it was 40 MPH.” I responded. “So you didn’t see the lighted sign on the road that flashed ‘25’ MPH as you entered the city limits? I clocked you at 36 MPH.” He continued with, “You were slowing down, but then you held steady at 36 MPH.”

I share this story as an example of being “engaged” and of being “not-engaged.” I was being “engaged” in conversation with Paul and with the beautiful scenery that the drive was providing. I was however, “not-engaged” with driving, even though I was behind the wheel and staying on my side of the road. If I had been engaged in my driving at that time, I would have seen that lighted speed sign, as I did this past Tuesday as I was again on that same stretch of road.

Now what does this story that speaks about “engaged” or “not” have to do with this morning’s scripture reading of God creating a helper for the “human?” Actually, the topic of “engaged or not-engaged” has everything to do with today’s scriptural text. One of the definitions of “engaged” that fits today’s reflection is, “Partly embedded in, built into, or attached to another part.” This affects us individually in how we go throughout our daily routine, this affects us as a family of faith in how we function as a people of God, and it affects us at the level of all humanity and all of creation and how we respond to it.

Today is World Communion Sunday. A day that as people of faith, we have set aside to intentionally be aware of our brothers and sisters around the world as we all celebrate the teachings of Christ and remember his engagement within this physical world; an engagement that calls for justice for all and the ability to live in “grace and mercy” with one another and in harmony with our planet.

Today we have the opportunity to give through a special offering a “love gift” to our respective denominations that will put our monies to work in helping fight those injustices such as poverty, human trafficking, and lack of adequate resources for daily living.

Today’s scripture is also a spring board for us as we start our annual stewardship discussions. You might be thinking that all we are going to talk about over the next month is how to separate you from your money. Wrong. Sorry to disappoint you, we are going to talk very little about money, but rather we are going to talk about engagement. We are going to continue on a journey that was started at the “Vision 2012” retreat, a journey that is asking us to look at not only the “mission” of this church, but to look at where we are at on a personal level in our relationships with God, the church, and to ourselves.

As we think about today’s lesson that we call the creation story, we see how God is engaged in what has been created. God has created all that is and now desires it to be experienced not by just God, but by a creature that is described in Psalms 8 as “beings that are just a little lower than God but greater than the angels.” Within this process, we have this beautiful description of how we should look at all of humanity, when the human says, and “This one is bone of my bones…” God is described as being concerned about the human who was placed on this earth and was showing signs of “loneliness”. So as a way of helping complete the human, an equal as created.

Over time, humanity once again became “not-engaged” with relationship to God, but rather “engaged” in self. This type of engagement brings about the acts of injustice that we see played out worldwide. It is through the teachings and lifestyle of a man we call Jesus that God once again tries to engage humanity. We see within Jesus, God becoming, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”

Have you ever noticed in the stories about Jesus, how he generally refers to those he is ministering to as “brothers and sisters?” He doesn’t refer to us as children, which would place us subordinate to him. The implications are then that just as Jesus, the one we say is the son of God is, “bone of my bone”, we too are God’s “bone of my bone.” In the same respect, all humanity is equal, as we all are “bone of my bone.”

In the same respect, the church also is “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” with God. Yet the church is only as “engaged” as its members. As individuals, how engaged in our relationship with God are we? In Albert Winseman’s book, “Growing an Engaged Church”, he states that through Gallup polls only 29% of individuals who attend Protestant and Catholic churches are engaged, and that 54% of those who go to church are “not-engaged.”

What does this mean? Well, I think it describes my opening story about driving and not being aware of the change in the speed limit. 54% of us who attend a church are not really engaged in what we call our spiritual health or growth. We can attend worship, give our money for worthy causes that the church is engaged in, even attend some of the extra events that are provided, but internally we are really not receiving the benefits that are available.

What is the most personal impact within our life that benefit from being engaged in a faith community? Life satisfaction. Gallup polls found that 43% of the general population feels satisfied with their lives, which means that nearly 6 out of 10 people are not happy with the way their lives are going, while those who are engaged in their faith families poll at 61% of being satisfied with their lives.

Winseman goes on to say, “If engagement drives everything, it should have an impact on spiritual commitment. Indeed, Gallup research confirms that the two have a powerful relationship. The conventional wisdom is, “believing leads to belonging: - that is, the deeper one’s faith (spiritual commitment) is, the more likely it is that he/she will desire to belong to a congregation (engagement). The reality is just the opposite: It is belonging (engagement) that leads to believing (commitment). So parents, if you want your children to have an active spiritually developing life, don’t let them make the decision about whether they want to go to church or not. Because the reality is, the depth of their spiritual grow comes through being engaged with congregational life.

As we come to this communion table this morning, we are aware that we are connected to all of humanity. We have multiple types of bread to remind us of the connectedness, the “bone of my bones”, that we are all equal in the eyes of God. This table affirms through our faith communities, we have the ability to be engaged and develop more deeply our humanity and not feel alone, but walk our journey with others who will support us along the way with a sense of satisfaction. The question today is, “How engaged do you wish to be?” Amen