Yesterday I preached on interdependence, one of our churches 5 values (conveniently they all begin with ‘I’, inclusion, integrity, intimacy and involvement are the other ones.). On a side note I love that we don’t particularly have goals or visions for the future but we have a way to live in this evolving journey we are on as a church. We long for these values to inform and shape all we do and the ways we interact together. We get it wrong a lot, but each year we remind ourselves of the ways we want to walk in, and how much they are found in the heartbeat of God.
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Yesterday I spoke on interdependence and mainly quoted from a brilliant book I was given for my birthday this year. ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer is exquisitely beautiful. It’s a series of essays reflecting on the natural world we live in and our interdependence with it. One of her major themes revolves around gratitude waking us up to the abundance all around us. She also talks about reciprocity lots, which I can just about say now. I quoted her extensively because of the huge amount of wisdom when it came to looking at interdependence.
My basic talk went along the lines of – interdependence isn’t a value we have to try harder to achieve but a value to wake ourselves up to. I offered three images to help us see the interdependence all around us. Firstly, we are part of an interdependent world, look at nature (see the quote below about how fungal networks help trees). Secondly we have an interdependent God, look at Jesus hanging out with his friends, Jesus needed people, his life down here was incredibly interdependent. Thirdly we are the interdependent body of Christ on earth, look at the way we are described as a body in 1 Corinthians 12. We need each other and are part of each other, just as much as our bodies have their individual parts making up a whole, unable to function without each other.
Then I wondered how we could lean into becoming more aware of our interdependence on each other?
We might start with gratitude, Robin says in her book, “appreciation begets abundance”. When I am thankful I start to see my abundance, I start to see the wonder of what I have and find that it is enough, more than enough. Gratitude helps us wake up to the wonder of our interdependence on each other.
Next mercy and forgiveness help us keep going in our interdependence, they are the ways we can move through the pain of being hurt by each other. We are going to hurt each other, no-one can live in community with others without being hurt. Mercy and forgiveness are needed so we can stay in this interdependent state and not rush off back to island living.
Lastly ceremony or sacrament are the mechanisms we can sustain our sense of interdependence long term. Ceremonies help us by providing physical signs of invisible realities, communion is an obvious example. Ceremonies are important for us to feel connected to each other, to see the strands that hold us together. Showing up for each other each week is a ceremony, coming to church used to be a powerful ceremony and we might want to think about what ceremonies we can enact with each other to remind ourselves of our interdependence together in these more disconnected times.
Next week we have partnership Sunday, where we recommit ourselves to each other for the year ahead. We are planning to make it ceremonial, a physical act in times when it is hard to be physical together. I am hoping and praying it will be significant as we invite people throughout the day to travel through our building, praying a labyrinth and then signing up to be partners of this church for another year. Hopefully the time-lapse will be awesome.
There is much more I could have said, or maybe should have said, but forming these thoughts together this week have helped me be in awe again of the created world around us and our creator who wove interdependence into the fabric of our lives and planet because we were made in their image, all the created world reflects back the interdependent dance at the heart of God.
I’ll leave you with some of the quotes from Robin, such beautiful words to help us dwell in this world with wonder:
“The trees in a forest are often interconnected by subterranean networks of, fungal strands that inhabit tree roots… These fungal networks appear to redistribute the wealth of carbohydrates from tree to tree. A kind of Robin Hood, they take from the rich and give to the poor so that all the trees arrive at the same carbon surplus at the same time. They weave a web of reciprocity, of giving and taking. In this way the trees all act as one because the fungi have connected them. Through unity, survival. All flourishing is mutual. Soil, fungus, tree, all are the beneficiaries of reciprocity.”
“Each part of creation is thanked in turn for fulfilling it’s creator given duty to the others, it reminds you every day that you have enough, more than enough Everything needed to sustain life is already here. when we do this every day it leads unto an outlook of contentment and respect for all of creation. You can’t listen to the thanksgiving address without feeling wealthy. and, while expressing gratitude seems innocent enough, it is a revolutionary idea. In a consumer society, contentment is a radical proposition. Recognising abundance rather than scarcity undermines an economy that thrives by creating unmet desires. Gratitude creates an ethic of fullness, but the economy needs emptiness. the thanks giving address reminds you that you already have everything you need….Cultures of gratitude must also be cultures of reciprocity. Each person, human or no, is bound to every other in a reciprocal relationship. Just as all beings have a duty to me, I have a duty to them… appreciation begets abundance”
“Ceremony is a vehicle of belonging to a family, to a people and to the land”