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Day 26: Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

1 Corinthians 12:21

The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’

“I have no need of you.” Such words are profoundly sad. They are also deeply mistaken.

Some I have known who felt this way were those who trample over others. They don’t really listen; they are too busy planning what they will say next. They are people who will snap their fingers to get someone’s attention as if summoning a dog. They imagine themselves as movers and shakers, as people of importance, as people whose time matters more than others. They think, consciously or not, that they matter more than others.

There is a lot we don’t know about what was going on in the congregation at Corinth, but clearly there were some so impressed with their own spiritual gifts that they imagined themselves to be superior to others. They apparently thought of themselves as “the strong” and others as “the weak.” And once you think you are more spiritually advanced than others, it is easy to think you don’t need them. Once you think you are above needing others, you have lost a crucial piece of your humanity.

But this is not the only reason people inhabit this sad realm in which they imagine they do not need others. Some who say, “I have no need of you,” are simply wounded and reluctant to trust anyone. And then there is classmate who broke his leg in fifth grade. I didn’t know him well at the time, but I wanted to. I offered to carry his books as he tried to negotiate with his crutches. He rebuffed me. He didn’t want to be dependent. He didn’t want to feel weak.

We live in a culture that values independence. Ideas like universal health care or aid to families with dependent children sit uneasily with us. They seem to belie our mythology that everyone should and can take care of themselves. Changing the name from AFDC to TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, makes it clear you are supposed to stand on your own two feet. Interestingly, when we read in Ephesians Thieves must give up stealing,” it has nothing to do with the morality of property, work or independence. The text says, “rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.” We work so we have something to give.

The scripture recognizes that we need one another. The first story told after God has breathed God’s spirit into the first human is the creation of a partner: It is not good that the man should be alone.” That story is not just about marriage and family, but our essential humanity. It is not good to be alone.

In Christ we are given to one another. The world is better because you are in it and, as challenging as it is for us to believe, the world is enriched because we, too, are here. In the bonds of friendship, care and, sometimes, challenge, we make each other’s lives richer, fuller, truer, more human. What was intended in the creation (and promised in the New Creation) is manifested already in the body of Christ. Here we are supposed to practice our connectedness. Here we learn something about God’s infinite love and the journey of treating others with grace, courage and kindness – not just by giving, but also by receiving.

Gracious God,
in the waters of baptism you made us members of your body.
Renew in us this day the bonds of affection
that we may love one another as you have loved us.

– A prayer for the fourth week of Lent

(For the reflection on this week’s theme: Baptized into one body” and sermon: “The Household of God”  For the themes and sermons of other weeks see the menu for Lent 2018 at Holy Seasons.)