Living in Harmony
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
Psalm 119:1-8
1 Cor 3:1-9

Growing up there was a lot of harmony in our home, loving parents and siblings, working together in the garden, playing card games and board games on a rainy Sunday afternoon, tending the garden with Mama and Daddy.  There is nothing more rewarding than what I call, “digging in the dirt.”  You gardeners in the congregation know what I am talking about.  Feeling the earth in your hands and as a child, the dirt between my toes.

How about the harmony of going to gather fresh eggs from a nest, or caring for a loved pet…feeding and washing…you pet-lovers know the drill.  I see your Facebook posts!

And let’s not forget the harmony we feel and experience when we walk through the doors of the church.  As a child, I grew up in a church where everyone was just about kin to everyone else, and if you were not kin, then you were neighbors and friends.  It was a joyous time to be with friends and family, such harmony.

L’Arche is a French based organization that consists of nearly 160 communities, present in 38 countries throughout the world, in extremely diversified cultural, religious, and social-economic contexts. Each community is rooted in its local environment and at the same time bears witness to the universal character of the lived experience of the L’Arche community.

Their founder, Jean Vanier, suggests that, ‘we all carry a deep wound of loneliness that is not easily overcome, and that this wound is so much a part of our human condition that we cannot escape it, try as we might.  We want to belong in the worst way, so we join communities, but they always tend to disappoint us.  He further claims that we have carried these wounds since childhood.’

So why, in growing up with all the harmony that I just spoke of as a child, would there be a deep wound of loneliness or a valley of chaos that lives inside us.  Why do we focus on the chaos among people in our world? 

Did I fail to mention the sibling rivalry that I also experienced as a child?  At some point, and at many points there was disagreement with a sibling or a parent where things didn’t go the way I thought they should, and it would often erupt into chaos.  And in that moment, there was little memory of the harmony that was more often shared.  Being called the red-headed step-child by my siblings, and told that I was adopted to the point I wondered at times if it were true, created anything but harmony inside me.  We laugh about it now, but as a child, it wasn’t funny, and it created doubt in a world where I otherwise felt harmony.

And what about those wonderful, harmonious trips to the garden to gather vegetables, or to the nests to gather the eggs?  Well, there were always the warnings to watch for the snakes that lurked about waiting to disrupt any harmony that existed.  This created fear in a world where I otherwise felt protected.

And what about our friends that we attended school with and went to church with, you remember, the ones that were your best friends, until they were not.  Harmony became disappointment.

And oh the Sundays I can remember returning from church only to hear my mother’s exasperated words, “our church is in chaos.”

What happened to the harmony?  As children we learn to build walls around the wounds.  Thoughts of innocence and harmony can be lost, and in some cases become fleeting memories.  And as we make our way through this hard journey called life, we can lose sight of the harmony, and we begin to choose sides to where we feel we can be most safe and protected from the chaos around us.

I’m sure there is not one person sitting on a pew here today that has not at some point experienced a loneliness from which they wondered if they might not recover.  A loneliness where they were afraid to reach out or to belong for the fear of being hurt again.  For some the wounds are not as deep and more easily overcome, and for others it’s life-changing.  Everyone responds to their wounds differently.

The wounds Paul found in Corinth were much like the ones stated by the founder of L’Arche.  They wanted desperately to belong.  Like the humans we are, we feel we should choose sides, and in Corinth it was no different.  “I’m with Paul” or “I’m with Apollos” were the words being thrown around.

To Paul’s credit, however, he didn’t get in the weeds, he didn’t allow himself to be pulled to one side so that he could be the leader of a few.  Instead, he considered the rivalry a misunderstanding of the gospel.  Paul wanted the people to put away their childish bickering and consider Christ, who identified with human woundedness.  Christ who reconciled us to God.  God who brings harmony to chaos.

As we are reminded, the first thing that existed in our bible was chaos, and it was God who tamed it.   If you listen to the news, everything is chaos.  The world is in chaos and the sky is falling.  So let’s not listen and watch night after night after night, instead, let us look to God.  It is in the silence of God that we find order, and God’s love brings with it an order that is above chaos.

So let’s turn off the television and the chaos in our lives, and open our Bible and meditate on scripture, or just sit quietly for 30 minutes to feel the Holy Spirit inside us…let it bring us peace.  Pick up a book, or have a conversation with others in our home, or with our neighbors.  Sometimes helping others heal means we just listen.  We don’t have to try and fix it, God will take care of that, sometimes we just need to listen.  Let’s get rid of the chaos and practice things that bring harmony to our lives.

Was their chaos in my family home growing up, yes, but greater than that was the love of God.  Was their chaos in the church I grew up in, and our churches today?  Yes, but God’s love is above it.  And most definitely there is chaos in the world in which we live, and if we do not find time for the silence and love of God, it will consume us.

What brings harmony and joy?  God’ love, the love that Jesus showed us among all the people he came in contact with regardless of their race or nationality.  Jesus showed us how to love in the world.  And with his love came peace and joy.  We still have it today, even in the chaos.  When we think things are off the rails, look around you for where the love is ON the rails, and choose that journey.  Choose to participate in an act of love.

We as humans tend to see the negative more than the positive, and today, I want to draw our focus back to the positive, to the love that rests within each one of us.  The love that reaches out to the person next to you that is hurting, the person that has a loved one hurting, and when we learn to see beyond ourselves to the hurt in others, we can help conquer chaos and live in harmony.

L’Arche recognizes the realities of inherent differences and the many challenges involved in sharing our lives, but together, believe we all have the opportunity to find love joy, happiness and contentment in a world where we all belong.

Their International Leader, says so beautifully they are  ‘With’ not ‘For’

“It’s a meeting of equals. Our watch word must always be ‘with’ not ‘for’.

Think about that “with” not “for.” 

How our lives could change if we could remember the power of that phrase.  Jesus was with the people during his life’s journey.  He was with them in their suffering, he was with them when he was healing them, he was with them when he comforted them, and he was with them when he was teaching them.

Our world would be such a better place, and we could live in more harmony if we had more leaders willing to be WITH people, instead of more leaders looking for more power and more greed and more for themselves.  We can be those leaders of love, we can be WITH those suffering just as Jesus was with them.

As Paul says, we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.  Let us remember to be WITH God so that through his gracious mercy and love, we can bring harmony rather than chaos. 

The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and it is God who provides the growth.  The planter, the waterer, and God are WITH each other.  My prayer is that we will be WITH each other and WITH those we meet on our life’s journey.

*Cover Image: Unsplash, free