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Plymouth United Church of Christ
Making a more loving world
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Eau Claire, WI 54703
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“We Are Made to Be Connected”
Sermon, Year B, Easter 5, May 3, 2015
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: 1 John 4:7-21 and John 15:1-8

Since Easter Sunday, through April, we had a sermon series on the roadblocks of life. The things that get in our way of living resurrection lives. Of living as fully as God intends for us to live. Those things that keep us from not being as full people as we might like to be. On Easter Sunday, we talked about the roadblock of forgetting that Jesus is with us, that he knows us, loves us, and knows and calls us by name. We talked the next Sunday about self-doubt: the way that we sabotage ourselves, whether thinking we are not worthy, or not good enough, or not sure if we have the skills we need. Then we talked about the temptation we face in times of difficulty to run away, to pretend the difficulty is not there, or just ignore it.

Last week we talked about Jesus as the Good Shepherd as the culmination of that series, to talk about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. To remember that we are part of Jesus’ flock. Especially to remember that as part of Jesus’ flock, we have other people around us who are part of that flock. And how even knowing that we are part of a flock, there is the temptation to want to go it alone. To not want to ask for help. Or some of the social and cultural baggage that says that if we ask for help, we are weak. Or that asking for help is shameful or ought to embarrassing. Even though, and I think if a uniquely midwestern thing, we are generally so ready and happy to help people, we are a very helpful and generous people always ready to respond whenever someone asks for help, but we hate to ask for help. Even though we know that everyone around is as eager to help as we are, and with love would happily give us a hand. Trust your neighbors that way! We talked also of the fiction of the self-made person.

Each week, you had a task, and last week I gave you what I thought was a very fun task, which was to remind yourself that you are part of a flock by connecting with someone in your flock. Connect with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or a family member, or whoever it might be. I challenge you all again to do this.

I ended up doing it with two friends this week. Reconnecting with them was wonderful. We often get so busy that we forget we have friends and family in our lives. So I gathered with a couple friends this week. Actually, three friends, but with one of them we had made plans months ago, and that was with my friend Roger in Madison. I would be going to Madison Friday and Saturday, and knowing he had to work Saturday morning, I thought I would see if could get together with some of my other Madison friends for lunch before I drove home. I connected with a friend I hadn’t seen in two years. In the time we were apart she had set up a couple medical clinics in Africa and got married, so it was good to catch up! To hear her stories and strengthen our connection. Especially to remind me that I am part of a flock. Not just one that is here in town, but friends all over the place. The flock that God has called together. A flock of mutual support and love. A flock that is bound together by the strings of love.

Before I went to Madison, I thought I would make my friend Roger some bread. I’ve been in a big bread baking frenzy since the thrift/bake sale. I was going to make him two loaves, and since it is just as easy to make four loaves as to make two since my oven holds four bread pans, I decided to make four and have two extra. I had an idea while making the bread, and posted it on Facebook as the bread was kneading. I posted that I am making bread, and included a link to last Sunday’s sermon. In the post I said that I had preached about reconnecting with friends, reconnecting with the people in our flock to remind us that we are not alone but part of a community. So I made an offer that I will give a loaf to whoever responds first but with the stipulation that you have to come to my place to pick it up and while you are here we will sit down and have tea or coffee, whatever you like, and a conversation. We will sit and catch up with one another. My friend Ann Marie took the bait. I hadn’t seen her in a number of months, and I had never spent time with her alone. We’d only been together in meetings or group events. We sat and talked for forty-five minutes or so and had some tea and a conversation that included us learning about each other. We didn’t eat any of the bread, but we still had communion. A communion holy moment of reconnecting. It was the same with my friend in Madison I had lunch with. We sat for an hour and a half or more, reconnecting, talking, remembering that we are bound to one another. Because it is so easy to forget that we are in a community of love.

Certainly here in the Church, we are a community of love. Or should be. Ours at Plymouth is. Also the community of our friends, our family, even in our schools and workplaces. I think that workplaces are one place that often we don’t think of as a community. We seem to think of workplace where we show up, do our job, then go home. Maybe we share some stories and get to know some of the people we work closely with, but we don’t think necessarily of workplace as a community even though we spend a lot of our life there.

When I look back on some of the jobs I had in my life, the ones that I most enjoyed and felt fulfilled at didn’t have so much to do with the work that we were doing (though that’s important), but with the community. The grocery store I worked at, there was a sense that we ought to know each others’ names. So even though I was a checker and worked the front of the store, I knew the people in the meat department, I knew the butchers, the ones in the produce department, the warehouse people, and so on. We knew each others’ names. When I worked at the consulting firm in New York, I knew the guys in the mailroom, the people in accounting, the secretaries, the supply room workers, the IT people. The company was intentional in making sure that the support staff knew each other. They threw us four big parties each year to spend time with each other: a river cruise, a baseball game, a night at a comedy club, and so on. We had monthly Friday happy hours in the cafeteria. They wanted us to know each other, and it made the workplace that much more enjoyable and that much more fulfilling.

We are made to be connected. We are not meant to be alone, or to think that we have to be alone. I think that’s Jesus’ over-riding message. He is always bringing people together. Bringing people to him. Bringing people into community. Going to those who have been pushed out community to bring them back in. He restored women into community, lepers, outcasts. Brought them all back into community. We are to love our neighbor, which is to be connected to our neighbors because we are all God’s people. We are all connected. Connected in the vin of God’s love. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches and we bear fruit by showing love, by being love toward other people.

It is this focus on love that led me to include the reading from First John today. I don’t often include the lessons that are from the letters, because often the Gospels are more interesting and more fun to preach on what Jesus had to say. But I wanted to read that epistle lesson today because it talks so much about love. It is so rich in showing what the life of a follower of Jesus ought to look like. The writer says, “Beloved let us love one another because love is from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. We love because God first loved us.” We love as a response to God’s love. We are able to love because God’s love comes through us.

There is a line in the epistle that seems to be an answer to the question, “Where is God?” The writer says, “No one has ever seen God.” It can often feel like God is not around because we don’t see God physically, and we may ask that question, Where is God? BUt the writer here says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perpetuated in us.”

So where is God? Wherever love is being shown. Wherever love is happening. That is where God is. God is in our flock. God is in our people who love us. So let them love you. And show love to them in return.

We may ask, Where is God in Nepal? God is in all the people who are spending days digging, trying to pull people out of the rubble. That’s where God is.

I mentioned earlier the young woman who has been missing, Abbey Russell. Where is God in that? God is in the people who are giving up their time and resources to search for her, to get the word out that she is missing. God is in the people who are praying for her, getting the word out.

Where is God in Baltimore? God is in the people who are crying out for justice. God is in the people who are trying to end the violence. I even see God at work in the gangs that got together who went out to try to stop people from burning cars, breaking into stores, and doing other damage. They were doing their own version of trying to end violence. God is there.

Where is God here? God is here in this church in our care for the sick, and care for one another. In our coming together for a meal, that we will do after worship for the picnic. God is in our coming together at the thrift/bake sale we did last week. God is also here and present on this Communion Sunday in the bread and cup of this table that Jesus has set for us. This table that Jesus has set to invite us in to connect with us again. To bring his flock around him, to share at the table, to connect with us over bread and over the cup.

Wherever love is, God is there. That’s where God is.

That’s the Good News! That God is wherever love is. Wherever love is, there is God.

That’s news that we can have faith in, and that we can have hope in.

Amen, and thanks be to God!

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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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