I wonder: when did we stop remembering how deeply we are connected to each other and to the entirety of this gorgeous universe of ours? When did we start forgetting this deep abiding connection we have -- Was it Automobiles? Capitalism? Where did it start? Was it the enlightenment era with Rene Descartes junk idea of I think there I am? Having a developmentally disabled cousin, I always found Descartes work wrong-headed—I think therefore I am-- does that mean my cousin’s existence as someone with less cognitive ability is somehow less than my existence? When did we forget our connection? Some never forgot.
Whales swimming in separate hemispheres 13,000 miles apart, change their song from year to year, singing to each other and still respond not missing a note—connected. God only knows how they know it by heart. The universe and our planet spin on daily in her way, the magnetic fields and tides the same, the trees communicating to each to the other through their roots and networks in the forest. A Pacific Northwest Skykomish tribal friend shared with me that Cedar trees are lonely and die quickly if they do not live in groves with other. They are communal she taught me and need to commune with other cedars. Biologists and other scientists are finding out what indigenous people knew all along -- trees and plants build deep abiding networks of connection to commune with one another. Mushrooms form micellar networks for communion.
When did we forget this?
Some of us never forgot. My mentor, Bishop Patrick Matolengwe taught me Ubuntu philosophy—I am because you are. It is a Zulu principle that was deeply embraced in South Africa. Ubuntu. I am because you are. The first time Bishop Patrick told me about Ubuntu, I remember my response clearly:
I had no earthly idea. I was too disconnected. Ubuntu is the generosity of our souls. Everything we do affects our ancestors he told me. Our ancestors. Wait. What?! ANCESTORS?
“I am because you are could also be interpreted as a person is a person through other persons,” He said. I still didn’t get it. I was too white bread European. Too caught up in I think therefore I am. But Patrick didn’t give up on me—thanks be to God! Read the Gospel of John – he told me and keep reading it—you will get it. “I am the vine you are the branches. We abide together. Keep drinking from the chalice he said. Keep coming to communion.”
It only took me 28 years, but I was sitting with a dear one from Ascension—a house bound gardener giving her communion and I got it. I understood Ubuntu. We can’t be human without her. We need each other.
This isolation, this division this loneliness is killing us. I think therefore I am isn’t working for us anymore. We believe might get us a bit closer back to where we need to go.
We believe is not a prospect of the mind, belief comes from the same word root as beloved. We believe is not of the mind, but it is an endorsement of the heart—it’s a story of the tradition that stands with generations of ancestors who come and stand with us right here right now each and every Sunday on the other side of the veil connected to us in this story. Its ubuntu. Our Celtic cousins knew this like Zulus and Skykomish and Whales and Trees and the Universe. If only we could re-member too and not forget.
We are connected right here right now.
All too often, the only way we know connection in our world is by accident. By holding a grudge, living with trauma or holding onto resentment.
Jesus’s story today is about what happens when we are forgiven but instead of forgiving and believing we in turn entangle ourselves in resentment and anger.
Connection to trauma and pain is real. If you’ve ever hated or resented someone even momentarily—you’ve known how real that connection is. The problem with this kind of connection is that it eats away not at the one we resent or hate, but instead at US. What’s worse, is we do not see our deep abiding love anymore. We can’t. Unless we transform our pain, we are sure to transmit it. Pain and trauma only beget pain and trauma unless it is TRANSFORMED. That’s why belief matters beloved. Its why the cross matters. That’s why forgiveness matters.
But how do we let go. When we have been violated, trespassed pained, have trauma, how do we let go and do this 7 times 77 forgiveness path that Jesus invites us to?
This is why story counts. This is why imagination counts. This is why we come here and meet each other. Our world doesn’t tell us stories of how to forgive. Tell me about that last blockbuster movie that stirred your imagination on how to forgive. Or the one about nonviolent resistance and love instead of revenge. Yeah. I’m still waiting for that one too. We need to find that story here amongst each other because the world will continue to lie and only tell us stories of revenge.
But truly I tell you: forgiveness happens. All. The. Time. We just don’t know it and hear it enough. We need to connect and know that forgiveness is possible, and connection to the unity that is love can be restored— oh the wound and trauma will always be there but being broken is a part of our beauty. Just look at Jesus.
Nelson Mandela as he sat in prison day after day for no real crime whatsoever knew the connection too. As he prepared to leave, he wrote, “As I walked out the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
We believe and we are connected. When did we forget and how do we re-member?