This is part 6 of 7 of a sermon given 4/11/15 at Westminster Church in New Brighton, PA. In it, I share about my recent trip to L’Arche Daybreak in Canada to research author Henri Nouwen. The sermon can be heard on itunes or at http://jordanrimmer.podbean.com/e/daybreak-henri-nouwen-and-me/
Even though my visit was only a few days, it has hung onto me and not let me go. I have been thinking a lot about Matthew 18:20 which says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” I think that God is always with us, so why does Jesus say that He is there when two or three are gathered? I learned in a new way during my time at Daybreak that God is with us in a special way when we are in deep community with others.
When we are in relationship with one another, there is a space between us. It is a place that is not there when we are alone. And in this place God has special room to work. As we interact and brush against one another we have all of these points of contact that God can use to shape, change, and teach both you and I. It is sacred space between you and I and in our midst. But there are 3 problems that we face in seeking this kind of sacred space between us. First, this kind of deep community takes a lot of personal vulnerability. It is not easy to be yourself and open yourself up to another in relationship. The vulnerability and the caring go together. The same vulnerability unlocks the depth of caring that makes it possible for us to live with our own disabilities and weaknesses. But you have to risk being open in order to find the very support you need to be open.
Second, this kind of deep community can be messy. It might lead us to see things about ourselves we did not want to see. We may be sadder when we lose someone because we are closer to them. We may have to slow down to invest time in one another. We might have to have some rules like the no flatulence rule. Community is not easy and is sometimes dirty, slow, and downright frustrating.
Third, people who are weak or different play a critical role in this kind of community. The weaker ones have much to teach. So it is often easier for us to pretend- to put on masks. To avoid people different than we are. To be around people like us. To seek opinions of others that we know will line up with our views. The outcast, the broken, the less important- these people stand in our lives as a critique of what is normal. They show us where we are also weak and they call us to become the best and most compassionate versions of ourselves.
I do not mean do downplay or romanticize the challenge of living with and loving people who have disabilities or are emotionally or spiritually broken. At Daybreak I got to see how challenging it was to be in that world all the time. But at Daybreak they wade right into the messiness of community.
I also do not mean to imply that I am great at this. So often I hide behind my position and my education. I would like my ministry to come out of my strengths—my creativity and my energy. But I am reminded that Paul writes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
This is scary for me, too. To stop fronting is to really trust in God. To admit my own handicaps and disabilities, even when mine are much less visible and more easily hidden. So I stay busy, feel important, keep myself hidden from others. But when I think that when we hide from others we also end up hiding from who we really are. And not only do we limit the space that God can work in between us, but I think it is in our weaknesses that God has the most room to work. Our disabilities are also sacred space in the Father’s hands.