Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11: 23-25
This morning for our sermon time I’m going to tell you a couple stories. Well, we’ll listen to one story and I’ll tell you another. Both are about solidarity. Genuine solidarity with those who have been harmed is the part of the repair work of reparations we’re focused on this week. Let’s start with the story called “The Rabbit Listened” by local author Cori Doerrfeld. Take a watch here.
I love this story so much. We read it in our house a lot. When have you felt what it’s like to be listened to like the rabbit listened? Not listened to in order to be fixed or changed or with any other agenda? Let’s pause and just think about that? Can you think of a time? What did that feel like in your body? How did your body tell you that you were safe? For some of us, this is going to be a frequent experience. For some of us, we might not remember feeling it with another human but instead with a dog or a cat or a favorite place in nature. All of that is ok. Just notice it.
Now, when have you been invited to be the rabbit to somebody else? Pause and really think. And feel. How was that? How did it feel in your body? Were you able to stay as the rabbit? Or did you slip into another way of being, like the elephant? Or the snake? Do you know which other animal is your default training in life? For me, it’s the fix-it elephant.
As Susan Raffo -bodyworker, organizer, writer – said in our spiritual practice of confession time this morning: “Solidarity is a state of relationship, of state of being. It is also about action, but action which emerges out of relationship. We feel solidarity, we are solidarity. From there, we do solidarity within the relationship.”
This is what the rabbit does. The rabbit prioritizes being in relationship, being present – not fixing or talking or any other action. The rabbit follows Taylor’s wisdom about what Taylor needs to heal and grow. The rabbit listened – with the rabbit’s whole being.
This is the call of solidarity at the heart of reparations. Those who come from a history of doing harm listen fully to the needs of those who have been harmed. Those who come from a history of doing harm show up in the ways those who have been harmed ask. Without critique. Without judgement. Without agenda. Without shame. Just to listen. Just to follow. Just to honor the truth of another. This is the building of relationship, of trust, of possibility. Of what Jesus calls a new covenant, or a new promise, of how we are going to act together.
Which brings me to my second story. I am a pastor today because of the ritual of communion in the church where I grew up. Many of you have heard me tell this story before. I grew up in what I to call my “little queer church on the prairie.” This church was 99% queer folks living during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s/90s. The dominant message of the Church (capital C) was that queer folks were sinful and that AIDS was the natural fall out of such sin. As a kid with two moms, I knew this message and its variety of flavors in my bones. I also knew it wasn’t the truth. Because I experienced the solidarity of God with me during communion
We did communion a little differently than we do here at Lyndale. First, we did it every week. Second, we did it in what I thought of as group hugs. People were invited to come forward in pairs or groups to be blessed with a mini laying on of hands, offered a prayer AND given the elements of communion. It didn’t matter that we used those awful communion wafers that tasted like cardboard. I could feel God listening to us, God being in solidarity with us in those hugs. I could feel God’s promise to be with us. And I could see God in the way people held each other with such tenderness and care.
When have you felt God’s solidarity, felt God listening to you and holding you like Taylor felt the rabbit? What did that feel like? Depending on how you understand God, this might feel like a really wonderful or a really strange question. It’s ok. Let the questions be a poem, an invitation, a prayer, not a test.
“On the night before he was handed over, Jesus took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant… Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglass, a Black episcopal priest and womanist theologian, invites us all to enter communion as a ritual teaching of solidarity. Not of God with us, but of us with God in the form of Jesus. It is about us being invited into relationship with Jesus through remembering that last meal and the bread and cup. In particular, Rev. Dr. Douglass focuses on the Greek word for “remembrance” used here – “Anamnesis.” She says, “[Communion] is not a passive process but one in which Christians enter into the [memory]. It is about being accountable to the past in the very present.”
In other words, communion as an act of remembrance is about being accountable for all the ways we participate consciously and unconsciously in the supremacies and power systems that killed the historical person of Jesus – a brown-skinned, Palestinian Jew born to unwed, poor parents – and that continue to kill those on the outside of power systems. This is a lot to hold. In so many ways, it is beyond words to hold. It is about feeling into that relationship with Jesus through ritual. So that we might enter relationship. So that we might do solidarity from within that relationship.
It is a lot to hold, this call to solidarity as a spiritual practice of reparations. Let it be a poem. Let it be a ritual. Let it be prayer. You do not have to understand it all now. Goodness knows I don’t. Just feel it. Feel what it is like to be held in honor and love and solidarity like Taylor. Feel what is like to receive God’s solidarity in communion. And feel what it is like to show up like the Rabbit. Feel your way into solidarity with Jesus – of the past and of the present – in this sacred meal. This is a practice of love and listening that unfolds over a lifetime. May it be so.