Believing is Belonging

On Sunday, low Sunday, we may still be a bit hungover from the intoxicating joy of Easter.  A sugary spirit filled high-on-faith experience fueled by beautiful music, fabulous flowers, chocolate rabbits, and marshmallow peeps – so sweet and so compelling who could deny that day that the Lord is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. 

So, thanks to you in the pews who chose to come back. Thanks to you who return and choose to believe – though like Thomas we all have our doubts.  God bless our doubts, each-and-every-one. We still follow up the Gospel every Sunday with the Nicene Creed.

We know it by heart, right? It’s a bare bones Trinitarian map of the faith, 4th century cousin to the 2nd century Apostles Creed. Not found anywhere in the bible, the creeds, grew out of doubt — just what does this mystery of the empty tomb really mean.

Though we recite the creed in unison” We believe”,  this low Sunday, I would like us to flip to the singular pronoun “I believe.” We handed out little golf pencils this morning and left some blank space in your bulletin so you can jot  down your thoughts.

I believe in God ….

I believe in the Son…

I believe in the Holy Spirit…

Enlightened folks, we equate belief with facts, provable truths, testable theories. But Jesus does not return today to the Upper Room in a book, or in a creed, he returns in person, the Word make flesh, the literal Body of Christ.

So, I think today‘s gospel is really much more about belonging than believing. I think it is really much more about the connective tissue of love than belief.

There is a wonderful book by Raymond Brown called “The Churches the Apostles Left Behind.” It tells the story of how the earliest Christians gathered in community centered around the gospel and letters of Paul, that they had received. So, there was a community inspired by Mark, a community inspired by Luke, a community inspired by Matthew, and another inspired by John. And they hung together long after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were long gone. 

These gatherings were unlike any seen before in the ancient world. Neither Jew, nor Greek, slave, nor free, male nor female were left out. In one another’s homes, they gathered, broke bread, and shared the cup, passing it around the table hand to hand. 

The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.

And I believe with all my heart that this sacramental connection is something that the whole world is longing for. Longing to belong. Longing to be seen and valued.  Longing to be understood and listened to. Longing to be loved. 

So, we belong to God,

We belong to the Son,

We belong to the Spirit,

And we belong to one another.

And what might that belonging look like?

Well, maybe like:

  • the little church you grew up in,
  • a Sunday School class you remember,
  • a parish retreat or summer camp at Shrine Mont,
  • a Canterbury Club or Campus Ministry you joined,
  • serving a meal at Carpenters Shelter,
  • building a house with Habitat for Humanity.

Maybe it looks like:

  • the church where you were married,
  • the church that baptized your baby,
  • the church where you laid your grandparents to rest.

Maybe it looks like Emmanuel. It is an act of faith, an act of love, an act of belonging that got yourself here today. To pray and sing and share the peace with one another in the pews. In this particular Episcopal Church — when you have seven others to choose from in the City of Alexandria, not to mention all of the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian options too!

So, let us just ponder today the bonds that bring us and bind us together, the simple little things that matter most, the graceful little encounters that we share with friend and stranger —  and then weave them all into our own creed. Maybe make it a little spiritual exercise this week to try to come up with your own.

I would like to end with one I love: Carrie Newcomers’ song: I Believe.

I believe there are some debts
That we never can repay
I believe there are some words
That you can never unsay
And I don’t know a single soul
Who didn’t get lost along the way

I believe in socks and gloves
Knit out of soft grey wool
And that there’s a place in heaven for those
Who teach in public school
And I know I get some things right
But mostly I’m a fool

Chorus
I believe in a good strong cup of ginger tea
And all these shoots and roots will become a tree
All I know is I can’t help but see
All of this as so very holy

I believe in jars of jelly
Put up by careful hands
I believe most folks are doing
About the best they can
And I know there are some things
That I will never understand

Chorus 2
I believe there’s healing in the sound of your voice
And that a summer tomato is a cause to rejoice
And that following a song was never really a choice
Never really

Bridge
I believe in a good long letter written on real paper and with real pen
I believe in the ones I love and know I’ll never see again
I believe in the kindness of strangers and the comfort of old friends

And when I close my eyes to sleep at night it’s good to say
“Amen”

I believe that life’s comprised of smiles and sniffles and tears
And in an old coat that still has another good year
And I know that I get scared sometimes but all I need is here

Chorus
I believe in a good strong cup of ginger tea
And all these shoots and roots will become a tree
All I know is I can’t help but see
All of this as so very holy

I believe

Carrie Newcomer

Pax vobiscum,

Joani

Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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