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Belonging

 

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Pastor James Clarke’s sermon for Sunday, November 6, 2016: All Saints Sunday. Listen to the sermon here.

One of the hardest things to learn in life is that we don’t belong to ourselves….

Owning things is natural for us, so why wouldn’t we own ourselves? As a matter of fact, of all things to own in life. it seems that ourselves should be the first to own. We have been inculcated in our culture to see ourselves as separate objects our inclination is to divide things up to understand them.

We divide the Earth into property; Water into rights; The economy into sectors; People into tribes or ethnic groups which are easier to control or dismiss.

There’s a great movie about water rights called The Milagro Bean Field War.

A local man diverts the culvert to water his bean field, the water rights are owned by developers with ties to state government. The developers and their henchmen are all white. And interested in growth…

The Milagro residents are Hispanic and just interested in survival.

I thought of this when reading about the stand off at the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakotas.

The stand off is not simply about economics.it’s about history, and the fragmentation of who’s in and who’s out. It’s about ignored treaties. And the fragmentary creation of reservations. And it’s also about water – And the juxtaposition of the value of oil and water.

We live in an oil culture. Native peoples lived in a water culture. It’s hard to mix the two.

Has anyone seen the meme on Facebook where the man pours cups of fracking water for the oil executives to drink? Fracking is fragmentation, it even causes earthquakes. (Are those the earthquakes the scripture is alluding to?)

Traditionally Native peoples did not have a fragmentary way of seeing the world. They didn’t divide the land into property and own it. To own water would have been a sacrilege. Meanwhile the Ogallala aquifer is being depleted.

I’m currently reading a book by physicist, David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order.

In the first chapter he says we live in fragmentation. Our perception of reality – the way we see it and try to understand it starts with division – making things different, which inevitably allows us to own them.

Our fragmentary way of thinking, looking, and acting, evidently has implications in every aspect of human life…. The roots of fragmentation are very deep and pervasive…we try to divide what is one and indivisible… our fragmentary form of thought is leading to such a widespread range of crises, social political, economic, ecological, psychological, etc… which implies unending development of chaotic and meaningless conflict….

We don’t have to look far for an illustration of this fragmentation, do we? “Widespread range of crises… Unending chaos. Meaningless conflict?”

That describes the election!!

Bohm sees fragmentation in our language, grounded in the pattern of “subject-verb-object” because it sets them off against each other. It inevitably leads to competition and violence.

I easily understood this because Japanese will drop the subject and object when they are already understood. One can look outside and simply say, “falling” We both know it’s rain, so there’s no need to say it. In English we say, “It’s raining.” But have we ever wondered what the “it” is?

Japanese tends more to pull things in than to separate them. And it focuses on the verb rather than subject or object when I speak or study Japanese I feel different.

According to Bohm another language that focuses on the verb is Hebrew. The context of the gospel text for this All Saints Sunday is conflict that is division and fragmentation – even competition.

The topic is the resurrection. The subtext is about oppression. The Pharisees believed in resurrection, but the Sadducees did not.

The Sadducees, remember, are the wealthy and powerful. The Sadducees ask Jesus a trick question about the resurrection. If a man marries seven times in life who will be his spouse in heaven?

This was a divisive question meant to stump Jesus so that they could dismiss him.

But Jesus doesn’t answer directly. Rather he describes a totally different way of being suggesting that the Sadducees are living in another world.

He talks about another “age.” Jesus is talking about a different world or dimension he calls, the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God there is no marrying, he says. I would assume there’s no owning either

In this dimension there is no need to buy and sell, own, or marry and divorce

Because everything is One – of a whole.

For David Bohm reality is a wholeness, not a fragmentation. And by the way, David Bohm is not small figure in the world of theoretical physics. His greatest contributions were to quantum physics. He was involved in the Manhattan Project. He was the most respected American physicist until he was accused to being Communist by Joseph McCarthy. (Talk about a figure of fragmentation!)

For Jesus the Kingdom of God is a wholeness not a fragmentation. And I think the question or challenge that Jesus was subtly posing for the Sadducees was:

Belonging. Without subject or object. Just….. Belonging…… like we’re looking out at the rain.

Do we sense “belonging” in America today?

We can belong to many things in life:

  • A career.
  • A relationship.
  • An ideology.
  • Just to name a few

We certainly see that in our current political antics. We are no better than the Pharisees and Sadducees… Where to the candidates experience belonging, do we think?

Does Hillary Clinton belong to power, as so many claim of her? As a United Methodist, we can hope that she has some sense of belonging to God. That this idea has been planted in her soul.

As for Donald Trump, he belongs to himself.

Jesus came to announce that the Kingdom of God is near. Not chronologically far off but available and present, yo see reality differently, not as fragmentation, but as wholeness. Where we do not belong to ourselves, we cannot own ourselves, where we belong to God.

And all our other connections and belongings in life, including marriage, are illuminated by our fundamental identity in God. I don’t belong to myself in this life or the next.

When we celebrate All Saints we recognize and memorialize.those who have passed on, not from the perspective of fragmentation but in the perspective of the kingdom of God. A wholeness in which we remain connected to them.

Eternity is another name for the wholeness we belong to. I believe some time ago I preached about this. In the context of the Gospel of John, eternity is not a chronological word but is about another dimension – a wholeness, one that the Sadducees could not see

One that most of those in power in our world cannot see.

I will be so glad after Tuesday when this election is over. It has done nothing but accentuate our fragmentation. The fragmentation that will lead us to crisis and conflict, and I fear inevitably collapse. How do we live “belonging” in a fragmented world?

That is the question I will leave us with.

One way to do this is to commemorate our saints all those who have come before us to recognize that we remain connected to them in the Kingdom of God. Another is to envision those who will come after us in the wholeness of being and care for them too. That means pay attention to global climate change.

How do we live in belonging with our ancestors and descendents?

How do we live belonging in our families?

How do we live belonging in our communities, schools, work places?

How do we live belonging in our politics?

What about fracking and the pipeline?

How do we live belonging in our church?

How do we live belonging to God?

How do we live belonging in such a fragmented world? Regardless of who wins the election this is our world.

And what are we teaching our children?

Amen.

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