Disparate But Not Desperate

Reflection by David Hirst, Sunday, October 28, 2012

I was astounded when Jim chose one of the verses of scripture that I am using today in his reflection, and Tasha used mosaic images of the universe that capture the sense of awe of creation.  This synchronicity lifted my courage to speak to you all today.

I have been on somewhat of a tear lately in trying to figure out why I am so drawn to this patch work posse, this mosaic mix up that makes up NCC that I’d like to share some musings with you about how I see NCC and me.  We all offer something unique that is affirming and building towards a greater good. And that is Disparate and Not Desperate.  (Learning to Plug-in to NCC)

I’m going to share three texts: One from a Midrash I heard from Rabbi Lynn Goldstein at Moses Montefiore Temple this Rosh Hashanah, one from the new Testament and one from a theoretical analysis of how “the other” is approached.  From such a mosaic of readings I hope that we can set forth to be a healing presence both in our community and the world.  Along with these reading I will show you how other communities around the world have created mosaics to express hope and healing.

First the Midrash:

Before God created the world, there was only God.  When God decided to create the world, God pulled back in order to create a space for the world. It was in that space that the universe was formed. But now, in that space, there was no God. God created Divine Sparks, light, to be placed back into God’s creation. When God created light, and placed light inside of Creation, special containers were prepared to hold it. But there was an accident, a cosmic accident. The containers broke. The universe became filled with sparks of God’s divine light and shards of broken containers. The midrash teaches us that until the sparks of God’s light are gathered together, the task of creation will not be complete. As Jews, this is our solemn duty. We call it Tikun Olam:

Repair of the World.  Daniel Silva in “A Death In Vienna.”  As told by Marilyn  Goldhammer, head of the Temple Sinai religious school in Washington, D.C. Reprinted with permission.

Hearing this read struck a resonant chord for me about the basic need for all of us to be about seeking glimmers of where and what each of us can do to be about the healing of the world “Tikun Olam”.  We don’t need to be part of the same act of healing.   The very act of reaching to put in place a broken bit of this shattered Eden causes a synergistic effect on the world.

The ultimate hope being that if we could all be engage in healing at the same time wholeness/Eden/Paradise/Utopia would happen.  While such pie in the sky aspirations may be a bit too mystical for me personally, I love the idea that any act of healing contributes to the restoration of the current world.  What acts of healing do you complete in your part of the planet?

Are you the cookie baker who brings goodies to gatherings?  Are you the the hammer wielder who can fix anything?  Are you the person who writes a note to somebody who seemed down?  Are you the social activist who fights for the end of predatory lending practices? Do you bring canned goods for the food drive?  Do you volunteer at a local grade school?

As a teacher, I work to help students who feel disconnected when facing challenging content; in essence how to persevere and learn.

Each of us completes many healing acts reaching out to others in need.

The second reading comes from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians Chapter 12 vs 12-31

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts,yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.


In Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts to the Church at Corinth he celebrates each person’s capabilities to do the work of healing the world.  Although Paul places added value on ecclesiastical hierarchy, even the humble toe has something to offer the body.

I know from being a swimmer that the toe has the ability to tell if the water is the right temperature and depth for a safe swim.

So, each of us in this community of faith has a function with value for the greater good.  I am a music lover, piano player, teacher.  I can’t balance the books, like Kim Tingley, organize like Betty Rademacher, or preach like Susan or Bob but what I have I share with joy because I have been given this gift in being here with you all in this slice of time and space.  I wouldn’t dare to disparage the other parts of the body of our community because in doing so, I’d be squelching the elements of our functioning that I can’t begin to do.

It is the need to acknowledge and celebrate rather than disparage and discount the disparate talents that we have as members of our NCC that brings me to the final most abstract thought to ponder.  The issue is how do we accept and encourage new people in our community who seem to be “the other” sort of people, whose skill sets, world views, sexual orientation, political affiliations, and personal aspirations are different from ours.  I can thank my schooling in Spanish American Literature at Illinois State University for introducing me to the critical analysis of Tzvetan Todorov in his 1982 book The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other.  In his theoretical analysis of the writings of the conquerors of the new world he placed the approaches each conquistador of the new world on a non-judgmental continuum on several axes.  This you have to see on a slide.  I won’t go into details about where Columbus was as on the continuum as opposed to Bartolomé de las Casas, but I have been made to think carefully when I encounter new people and new ideas.   I ask myself am I closer to feeling that the other is bad, not loved and inferior, or good, loved and an equal.  I wonder how much I know about the others around me, am I ignorant of their lives and struggles or do I have full knowledge of them?  The final arrow makes me ponder my intentionality toward the other, do I identify the other with myself and expect them to submit to me or do you identify myself with the other and submit my will to theirs?  Each one of us when meeting with a new person here at NCC ends up reacting to the newcomer somewhere on this continuum.  How can we overcome our fear and ignorance of the other and engage with people who we might not understand at first in order to set our paths on shared growth and healing? How can we make it comfortable for visitors or newcomers to overcome the same and feel welcome among us?

Take a moment and jot down what your fragment is to add to the mosaic of NCC.  It isn’t an assignment, but a calling: Are you the tenor who can carry harmony in the hymns? Are you the energetic 70 something that can organize and implement action plans?  Are you the Dad who can, like Solomon the Wise see both sides of an argument and arbitrate?  All these are bits that we can share in our community mosaic when we a) respect the other and see mutual benefit from caring for each other and b) understand the other and react intelligently to respected differences.

I’ll let you look at some more mosaics from around the world and then we’ll pass the microphone so you can share what you have jotted down as your piece of the mosaic, or simply pass it on.  We have disparate talents but need not be desperate to be just like everybody else.  As individuals you can add a fragment to our mosaic. As a community, We can contribute our small piece to make the world healed and whole.  I’m glad I am plugged in to New Covenant Community!