The Holy Spirit revealed to me a simple fact:
We all want to belong.
With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas on the way,
The question of belonging takes center stage:
Where were you for Thanksgiving?
Where will you be for Christmas?
Where do you belong?
For some, the holidays bring the opportunity to reconnect and celebrate with loving family:
With the brother who knew us when and the parent who stuck by us through thick and thin.
For some, “family” most certainly is not the ones we grew up with.
At a recent brunch with friends I met a lesbian couple in which one of them was sent to a
“pray away the gay” camp in which she could not leave until she vowed to renounce her sinful life.
A transgender friend of my sibling Florence will be joining my family for Christmas,
because their own family will not have them.
For many in the GLBT community, “family” is not the biological ones you grew up with,
but the chosen friends who know you far better.
For many, the holidays provide a vivid reminder of what has been lost –
Through death or disagreement a family rarely look the same today as they did a decade or two ago.
Maybe the reality of change is why traditions are so loved this time of year.
Traditions connect us to a lineage and a past of belonging and joy.
Even if the current reality is so different from the past,
A tradition allows us to sink into a past of belonging.
The changing of traditions carries a sense of loss of belonging,
Even when new belonging is forming.
While I am looking forward to joining CJ’s parents for their famous pancakes on Christmas morning,
I simultaneously will miss the utter chaos of my five siblings excited about Christmas morning presents.
As belonging shifts, traditions change. Or as traditions shift, belonging changes.
It goes both ways, sometimes leaving us hanging in the middle.
While each person will see some changes this year,
The need for belonging will be a common thread for each of us.
It can be tempting to chase after the desire to belong by trying to replicate what was
Or run away from what is or was.
It can be tempting to seek belonging from gifts or food or status.
It can be tempting to force belonging by insisting family members or friends act a certain way.
I have a habit of trying to have deep, personal conversations with my brother when he is trying to play a new video game…the result is not connection and belonging, but frustration.
Belonging cannot be forced from the outside.
The need for belonging beckons loudly this time of year,
as images of “picture perfect” families and smiling photo cards paint the illusion of wholeness.
Our scripture this morning paints a different picture of wholeness and belonging.
Our scripture comes from the book of Revelation. It is the beginning of a dream a disciple of Jesus had long after the resurrection. [It is a letter written to the 7 churches, however, there were likely more than seven churches at the time, so the use of “seven” is probably a symbolic way of saying “everyone” as seven is a number denoting wholeness in the Bible (ex. 7 days of creation).] Revelation is considered an apocalyptic text depicting the end of time. Some take is literally as a future prophecy. Some see it as a metaphor of the author’s hopes for his historical reality. Some read it as symbolic of a truth of every time and place. I tend towards the symbolic, because each group of people throughout history has dreamed of what the world might look like. We dream up a utopian society and attempt to make our way there. The dream depicted in Revelation resonated with the early Christians and continued to do so through the ages. Within these opening verses is a picture of what wholeness truly looks like in the world to come.
Scripture: Revelation 1:4-8
Revelation’s dream of a utopian society is one where all belong, all are part of God’s kingdom, all worship God,
Even those who pierced the side of Jesus – even those who have sinned and done wrong.
All are part of God’s kingdom and the King is Jesus Christ –
The alpha and the omega; the one who is, was, and will be.
Alpha and Omega = A and Z of the Greek alphabet,
so to call Christ the Alpha and Omega is to say Christ is the beginning and the end,
the one who encompasses all.
Calling Jesus the one who is, was, and will be is a reference to the Exodus when Moses meets God in the burning bush. Moses asked God’s name was. God’s response is a Hebrew word that can be translated “I am” or “I was” or “I will be”…Thus God is what is and was and will be. So for Jesus to be the one who is, was, and will be is to say Jesus is God.
Jesus/God is timeless and encompasses all – at the beginning, now, and into the future.
Ultimately, belonging comes from the holy for the holy is what is always present with us.
Wholeness and belonging is not found in gifts, not necessarily in “family”, not in traditions that are forever changing, nor in the delicious food – whether turkey or tofurkey. All of these things may be expressions of belonging, but ultimately, we find our belonging in the Divine.
People will come and go; traditions will change; we will grow and mature,
But God is timeless, ever-present, with us always.
God is alpha and omega, the one who is and was and will be.
So when we nourish our relationship with the Divine,
We find we always have friend by our side, grounded in eternal belonging.
As we delve into the holiday season, may we resist the temptation to force belonging
And instead cultivate an everlasting belonging with the One who is always present.
Next Sunday starts Advent, a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus
– a perfect time to intentionally nourish our connection to the Divine.
How will you nourish your connection to the Divine?
What spiritual practice will you pursue?
Devotional, Bible reading, prayer, silence, talking to a stranger every day, sending notes of blessing
[Invite children forward for a special spiritual practice: advent calendars]
- Candy, Scriptures, Reveal a Picture
- Social Justice Actions, Acts of kindness, Photo-Calendar, Faithful Preparations
- Pick up an advent calendar downstairs in the church dining room!
Whether with an advent calendar or another spiritual practice, taking time to deepen our relationship with God grounds us in belonging to the one who heard our borning cry, who travels with us throughout life, and surprises us after this life with eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
May we find our belonging in God, the one who is, was and will be. Amen.
CALL TO OFFERING:
We all have a Place in Christ’s Kin-dom
Theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz suggests that is might be helpful to see Christ’s Kingdom more in terms of a “kin-dom”. A kingdom places one person over others; a kin-dom is a more egalitarian society of equals. When reading scripture and imagining Christ as King, ruler of all, Christ’s “kingship” looks entirely different from earthly kings. Instead of force and might, Jesus practiced non-violence and died on cross instead of using physical force. Instead of touting power-over others and ranking people into a hierarchy of worth, Jesus lifts up the outcast and draws people together as equals, each deserving love and belonging – each having a place in God’s realm. Jesus empowers instead of overpowers. Given the thousands of years of troubling and sinful kingdoms here on earth, it can be hard to imagine a loving and just kingdom – even if God is the king. So, the term “kin-dom” is sometimes used to more accurately portray the type of society Christ leads: it is a world in which each person relates to others as beloved kin – beloved family.
Whichever term you prefer, we are called to participate in the building of this new world. This time of offering is a moment to consider how you might participate in the building of a more just and equal world for all.