Many of you know that my family and I have moved recently to a new house, about a mile from our old house where we have lived for the last four years. Our old house welcomed us when our family only had three people, and the youngest among us was only 8 months old. We settled into every square inch of the space and soon welcomed a fourth member. Both of my babies learned how to walk, talk, eat and play baseball at that house. Though we were sad to leave it, we were grateful to come to a new place where we didn't have to rearrange furniture when guests came over.
We knew the move would be hard for the boys. After all, it was the only home they'd ever known. They didn't know that most houses have more than one bathroom and don't require folding laundry on the kitchen counter. They knew that their room was huge (they took up residence in the finished attic space), and that all of their toys resided where they slept and they could run races up and down the length of the house. They learned that the front yard was the place for soccer, lacrosse and baseball games. Yes, we knew it would be hard to say goodbye to this house.
So, we did our best to talk about the things we all loved about it. We talked about the things we loved about the new house. On the day the movers came, we said a prayer before the truck pulled away. We blessed each room with a bit of water, saying thanks for the life and memories we had shared there. It didn't take long to settle into the new house, with its gracious and ample spaces for the things that had previously been shoved into corners and piles. But, we had to return to the old house to get it ready for the new resident. Each night, we've spent a little bit of time there, cleaning, repairing and readying. The boys have come with us, and have been thrilled to run races in their room and play in the front yard. Every time we leave, they reflect on how much they love it and miss it.
This weekend, we were taking the last of the things out of the house, and we found an old, purpleTake n' Toss cup. It was meant to be disposable, and I insisted that it be thrown away. I barked something along the lines of, "We're not taking garbage back to our house!" Matt headed with the old purple cup to the trash can, and immediately, Jackson burst into gut-wrenching sobs. "MY CUP!" He wailed. "THAT'S THE CUP I HAD WHEN I WAS A BABY!"
We saved the cup.
This cup, this little, disposable remnant of my baby's babyhood grabbed him and connected him back to his infancy. For those of you who were in worship yesterday, this may remind you of "Garden State" and Natalie Portman's "tickle" – a scrap of the baby blanket in which her parents brought her home from the hospital. She calls it "the thing I love most in the world."
Isn't it strange the things to which we ascribe value and importance? How these things, these tiny objects that appear to have no worth to anyone else hold, for us, a deep and significant meaning. Consider what these things are for you. What do they tell you about yourself, and more importantly, about who you are as a Christian?
The great theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writes in his book Act and Being that we know ourselves in two ways: as sinners, but sinners in light of the revelation of Christ's love. He compares these two aspects "Being in Adam" and "Being in Christ." If we find our "being in Adam," then we only know ourselves as sinners and apart from God. In this way, we live in untruth, turned in on ourselves and disconnected from community. In this, God becomes purely a religious object, and the heart turns in on itself. But, if we find our "being in Christ," we know ourselves as God's creatures, and as faithful beings, we turn to Christ and find ourselves there in God's community. In this is truth, love, mercy and grace.
As we live and move in this world, it is important for us to know who we are, and where we find our being. The objects that connect us back to who we are as people, loved and found in community, reveal to us what is important: family, relationships, friendships, home. This week, as you go to work, travel, play, and rest, consider what is most important to you. I pray that you will find your being in Christ, and in Christ, you will find yourselves as a part of this beautiful community of faith. I am blessed and grateful to serve here, where church is more than Sunday worship. You, Saint Mark, take your being and actions seriously. You do not come here by rote, but because this matters to you. You know yourselves as members of the body of Christ, and in this body, we all find our place.
Blessings and thanks to all of you.