Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fully Human

Rating: GT, QT

Related Post: Milk and Cookies
While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. (Luke 24:36b-37)

What is it about this story that is so important?
We see almost the exact same story in the Gospel according to John:
Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:26b-28)

In both of these stories,
Jesus is fully human
and he is unrelenting in his demonstration
from pointing out the wounds in his body
to asking for something to eat
and then eating it.
Fully human.

Why is that so important?
Why is it important for us?

The issue of “full humanity” is front and center for us today.
Full humanity is front and center for us as citizens of the world.
Full humanity is front and center for us as residents of the United States.
Full humanity is front and center for us as Christians, as Episcopalians, as members of this diocese who are
engaging in discernment about God’s will for us
in the upcoming election of the bishop who will be our pastor, our shepherd,
as we journey together through this world.

Oh yes
the issue of what it means to be fully human
of who is considered
fully human
is most urgently important.

Give a mouse a cookie, and it’s going to want a glass of milk.
Start ordaining women, next thing they’ll want to be rectors and vicars.
Baptize a small child, tell her that she is sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever, and pretty soon she’ll expect you to treat her that way.
Affirm LGBT people as full members of the body of Christ,
and next thing you know, they’ll want to actually live out their baptismal covenant and be ministers of the church—
ministers of the church being defined as
“lay people, bishops, priests, and deacons.”[1]

Give a mouse a cookie, and it’s going to want a glass of milk.

The issue here is not the mouse’s greed or ingratitude or lack of understanding. Of course it wants a glass of milk. Who doesn’t want a glass of milk to go with a cookie?
The issue here is the sheer lunacy
of thinking that there is such a thing as
partial inclusion.

People are either fully human or they are not;
it is neither logical nor practical to act as if it is possible
for a designated group of people to be fully human but only at certain times, or in certain places, or in reference to certain topics.
It makes no sense; besides, it never works.

But there is a level on which
I can sympathize with those in this world
in this country
in the church
in this diocese
those of my brothers and sisters in Christ
who want to count some of us as partly human, partly Christian
perhaps a half-sister in Christ? a stepbrother in Christ?
I can sympathize with how hard it is to change
because I do the same thing right back at them.
It is hard to treat someone as fully human
when I am afraid
of that person.

And I am afraid. For myself, for the people I love and who love me.
I am afraid for this parish and for this diocese
and for the Episcopal Church.
I am afraid, and so I begin to count
those whom I blame for my fear
as less than
fully human.

Did you know that any two human beings
“have the vast majority of their DNA sequence in common”? Genetic fingerprinting—the way in which DNA is used as evidence in court—is all based on a tiny percentage of our DNA.[2]
The overwhelming majority of our DNA
is exactly the same.
We actually are
all related to one another…

People are either fully human or they are not.
Today’s Gospel reading places the issue of full humanity
right at the heart of who Jesus is
and who we are
and the substance of our relationship with the Incarnate Word of God.
The substance—the material, the matter—of our relationship with Jesus is DNA.
The meaning of that relationship
is that
humanity is not a burden to be overcome—
humanity is a destiny to be fulfilled.

Humanity is a destiny to be fulfilled—that is the meaning of our relationship with the risen Christ.

We embody that relationship and move into our destiny as humans every time we participate in the Eucharist, as Christ is known to us in the breaking of the bread. When we recognize
that the living Jesus is present
in the body of the person next to us
and that that presence is permanent,
it is there in every one, every moment, every day.

The purpose of the sacrament
is to teach us to recognize that presence here and now,
in order that we may learn to recognize Jesus’ presence out there,
in the world, every day, in every one.

To recognize Jesus
who was and is fully human.
To recognize Jesus in ourselves,
who are also fully human.
To recognize Jesus in one another
as fully human.

Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in the breaking of the bread;
in our eating and drinking;
in our breathing in and out.
Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in the touch of hands and the meeting of eyes;
in those we love and in those we fear.
Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in those who fear us
and in those who walk beside us.
Be know to us, Lord Jesus,
opening our eyes to behold you in all your redeeming work.[3]
Amen.

[1] The Book of Common Prayer, “An Outline of the Faith, commonly called the Catechism” (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 1986), 855.
[2] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forensic_DNA
[3] paraphrase, Collect for Third Sunday of Easter, BCP 224.

yours in the struggle,
Max

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