Romans 8:12-17In and Of
This past week I had the great gift of officiating the wedding of two good friends. And bonus- the wedding was in Sayulita, Mexico— destination weddings are a treat for pastors!
So last Monday, I joined 10 strangers at the gate in front of United Airlines. As we introduced ourselves- each was thinking we were the outsider and assumed everyone else knew one another.
After the three hour flight, we exited the plane to the warm humid air we had been longing for- after the past month in Colorado, and moved through confusion and customs- stopped to change money and buy water and loaded into a van to head to the small town of Sayulita.As we drove through the unfamiliar terrain -each asked how they knew the couple getting married.. and one by one we each realized that we weren’t the only outsider- in fact we were a bus full of outsiders all traveling together.There was a sister from one side, and a cousin from the other, a childhood friend, a co-worker, an x-cousin-in-law who got to keep the family, a long time roommate, a neighbor/ photographer, and a pastor they met three years ago in a bar next door to a church. Think breakfast club for 4 days, in Mexico- all were traveling to celebrate and support friends in love. Traveling to reconnect to ourselves- to each other- to our spirits.After moving through steep hills and rocky dirt alleys - just two inches wider than the van we were stuffed into - We arrived to the house we would share for the next four days. The beauty of both the terrain and the home brought an immediate shift in awareness.We settled in and went to work- we were there to support our friends in marriage. Everyone helped. Some made sure dresses were perfect, others did hair, two went to find the perfect spot on the beach, another found flowers. After taking far too long… we all began a journey through the rustic city, down the giant hill past stray dogs and roaming chickens.. past a beautiful old cemetery, to the sandy beach, and to the perfect location where waves crashed and birds flew overhead.We formed a half circle with our friends at the front- I officiated- but all participated. Each person had an opportunity to share from their heart. To name their connection and give words of love- and we celebrated.Then we let our guards down. As we walked through the week- sharing meals, playing at the beach- interacting with street vendors - we began to share stories. It was clear that while it was an eclectic group- there was a consistent theme of strong and resilient people. Each person shared about the pains and the joys in their lives past and present..— no one on the trip was conventionally ‘religious’ — but every person held a deep spirituality— as has become typical of our generation. I heard authentic questions, frustrations and skepticism about God and religious communities in general… And- as we laughed together I heard stories of longing. Longing for connection and authenticity and creativity and community. Longing for life.We live in a time when old structures are no longer relevant. When the assumptions of the past no longer serve to support the life and grace we need here and now and always. When stale words and doctrines have been rejected as irrelevant and hypocritical. In the midst of this context- many are left feeling disconnected and fragmented. We know what doesn’t work… and together we are longing to find what does work to create connection.——Paul addresses the community in Romans in a time of deep social and individual change to remind them of their ultimate connection to God- through Christ- and to inspire them to live into this connectedness. The early followers are struggling to make sense of this new way of being. There is intense struggle in how to reconcile belief and action. How to live in the midst of the constant and inevitable spiritual battle between living in ways of life- or continuing ways of death and division.At the root of this struggle is what I call the ‘myth of disconnection’. The people in Romans are separating the teachings and the ideas from their actions.——Now here is where I have to stop and do a bit of critical analysis of the text—In this section of Romans- and quite frequently in Paul’s writings - the writings are interpreted with a condemnation of ‘the flesh’ and a glorification of ‘the Spirit’. Too often this word ‘flesh’, sarx in Greek, is seen as synonymous to our ‘body ’, or soma in Greek….This interpretation has led to a de-valuing— and even justified exploitation of ‘bodies’ - and to our physical created world in general.One of the great fallacies of our religious tradition is a de-valuing or dismissing of bodies and our physical world. In the teachings of Jesus we can see that Jesus was directly concerned with bodies- healing, feeding, caring.Dis-connection of body and soul has led to dismissal of real social inequity as the material poor are promised a better life in the spiritual world- and neglected in the current world.Fragmentation of body and soul has too often led people to be at war with their own body- rather than seeing it as an integral piece of their whole- and a vital tool to be cared for in working for good in the world.The myth of disconnection has been furthered by damaging readings of our text- which when read thoroughly and in context actually serve to call for deeply connected living- rather than fragmentation and compartmentalization of body and soul- or values, ideas and actions.——In the book of Romans, Paul reminds the early followers of Christ that the gospel names the reality of salvation, reconnection, and reconciliation. No one is an outsider.While all are broken and fragmented— or as Paul says- sinners- we are ultimately created and born of God, re-connected again and again through Christ— and this connection is sustained through power in the Spirit— the great connector.Now this might sounds a bit too theoretical or theologically abstract — which on this Trinity Sunday in our liturgical calendar is pretty much expected—But- I have to admit- I am a big fan of theologizing ‘the trinity’— as I see a ‘relational understanding of God as key- and practical in our daily lives;Through naming God as relationship at the core- between creator, redeemer and sustainer- each unique, yet mutual and interdependent- our image of God becomes shifts to a kind of circle dance rather than an old man sitting on a throne.—-The ‘myth of disconnectedness’ - between body and soul, between God and humanity, between each of us and our neighbor— is at the root of pain and struggle. Dis-connectedness breeds fear and guilt- and ultimately can result in hate and violence.Paul call us to a theology of connectedness — To see the reality that we are children of God- adopted and brought in and loved as a parent loves their own children. This reality is at our core and can’t be broken.Realization of this connection leads to life, creativity and flourishing — light and joy—We can let go of notions of disconnection and fragmentationIn order to walk connected - in the Spirit and of the Spirit———Gathering at the airport last Monday morning we all felt disconnected. We assumed we were the outsider. In realizing we were in reality connected- to each other- and through something more— Each person opened up. laughed, shared stories, let themselves be vulnerable, and experienced genuine connection and friendship.As we look to the future of the church- in a context where old assumptions and institutions are falling away— as we listen to where the Spirit is calling us next-May we see that we are already connected. We are a participant in the very being of God. May we meet people from this place of connectedness.May we live, listen, play, work for justice, and be present to others with a deep awareness of the work of the Spirit- the great connector- tying us to the God we come from, and the world we live in.Amen.