Increasing awareness of our common humanity
practice, any law, any religious guideline that we use to separate ourselves from one another. Jesus was a faithful Jew and followed the Torah, but he also seemed to care little for human authority. He seemed to disregard those made-up rules that served to set up a hierarchy of righteousness. He ate with whomever he wanted, he healed people whenever and wherever he felt it to be appropriate. He drank with outcasts and partied with prostitutes. He just didn’t seem to be that concerned with outward signs of purity. He also believed that no one ... no one ... was any more or less defiled than anyone else.
Some of us think we’re better than others because we eat only natural, locally grown food, or because we live in an exceptional nation, or because of the educated way in which we read the Bible. We self-righteously question, or even avoid, anyone we might consider less pure than we are.
We can make this about hand washing and tradition and laws, but it’s really about how we view one another. It’s about an increasing awareness of our common humanity and an increasing openness to one another.
You might recall the commencement speech that went viral on the Internet last spring. It was a speech given by David McCullough Jr., a high school English teacher who, early in the speech, told graduates at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts, “You are not special. You are not exceptional.” These were harsh words to newly minted graduates, but many commented as to how freeing they felt the the speech was. What a gift to let graduates know that there was nothing wrong with being common; that they didn’t have to separate themselves from the rest of the herd.
“You’re not special,” he concluded, “because everyone is.” If that’s not the Gospel truth I don’t know what else is.
When we serve Communion at Central Presbyterian Church, all are invited to come forward to receive a little bread and a little juice. It’s a common meal. Your hands don’t have to be washed (don’t worry; everyone who serves the bread will wash their hands — you see, not all tradition is bad). But you, each and every one of you, are invited to come forward and eat ... just as you are.
All are invited to come forward and remember these words from the Jewish Talmud that tells us that we should each wear a coat with two pockets. The rabbis say, “In one pocket carry a note that reads, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’” And in the other pocket the rabbis tell us to carry a note that reads, “For me, the universe was created.”
Come forward, eat, remember who you are, and who we all are, and then leave, and by all means don’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty.