Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church


From the Staff @ HIEC

The Year of We > Me

Here is a sermon I preached on the Second Sunday After Christmas. I pray that it inspires and gives us a way of deepening community and action in the world on behalf of all God’s children. Oh that Georgia will become a holier place for children in 2016 because We > Me!

The Second Sunday After Christmas

2016: The Year of WE > Me

Well, the new year is here. Have you made your commitments? Have you decided on your resolutions? Are you thinking about how this year you’ll be fitter, healthier, wholer, a more successful you?

I’ve started...but I’m just not there yet.

My two favorite almost-motivating hacks for the new me so far are:
2016: Remember: Flaws are the New Black
Success: Why Copying the Habits of Successful People Won’t Make You Successful

Now, before you set off on making promises or signing up for new subscriptions here are two staggering statistics according to Forbes Magazine: 1. 8% of people achieve their New Years Resolutions yearly; and 2. only 45% of people manage to stay on track with resolutions for up to 6 months.

Talk about a tough go at becoming a better you.

But what if I I told in the spirit of Jeremiah the prophet and the three wise men, that in 2016 you didn’t need to make this about you? What if I freed you from that in-the-now-marketing-self-help-over-commercialized-notion-of-you-become-god-center-of-universe and told you that this year was not really about you, but about us?

What if rather than asking you to make 2016 about you becoming a better you, we, the people of Holy Innocents, invited invited one another to the journey of becoming a much better WE.

You see while the calendar may be turning over to 2016, WE have already began quite a journey together. So why start over now?

We are after all, already into Christmastide, Advent has already come and gone, we said Happy New Year on Nov. 29. We’ve had an Old Fashioned Sunday Supper where we let our name reclaim us; we’ve served over 400 families meals; we’ve provided Christmas gifts for over 300 children; we’ve seen unprecedented giving towards mission; we’ve committed to a discussion on Dismantling Racism, and yes we have began a new work among our neighbors.

We have done it, not me have done it.

Yes my friends, this year, we must not allow ourselves to jump on the self-preservation-Herod-like treadmill, but WE must choose to continue to allow ourselves to be swept up in the imagination of the prophets of old. Prophets like Jeremiah, who in our reading today spoke loudly for God and declared sweeping transformations - not for the he, but for the WE of his day. For when WE declare that the Church is more about WE than ME, well then you and I living into and up to our greatest self-aspirations will become far more communal than individual. Far more achievable and yes, far more liberating.

Yes, I’m pretty convinced by our ecclesiology- by our way of doing church- that when we act more like a “we” than a “me” our personal commitments come a little easier. When we act more like a we “whose strength is in God,” (Ps. 84) our dialogue will begin to take a little different tone (even on Facebook). When we act more like a we “who find springs in desolate places,” (Ps. 84) our willingness to embrace the past as part of our present to be learned from increases; and yes, when we act more like a we “who have seen the swallow nest among the altars of God,” (Ps. 84) we will begin to embrace our God-given capacity to make healthy decisions in the face of our greatest fears.  

You see, OUR work, the WE gospel work for our time (rooted in the incarnation of God in Christ) is to participate in the ongoing work of dignity restoration.

In 2016 the world will need a church, a people, willing to see and defend and honor the dignity of the other as God sees them right here/there - right now- not simply as the law allows ... not only when we feel comfortable ... but NOW ... right in front us.

Dignity-restoration is the work that WE the Church are called to be about AND this is why in our efforts to make Georgia a holier place for all God’s children, we like the three wise men will not always be doing what the leaders of the Empire asks us to do, because to do so would violate the dignity of those whom God is calling us to serve.

And won’t this be good news for the Holy Innocents Of Our Day - for the children and families in Sandy Springs who are out looking for a star to show up in the sky and lead them to that where where they can belong to a WE?

You see, I believe that if in 2016 WE presumed God-given dignity in every person we meet (enter baptismal covenant) the hardest part of our days will not be whether or not we should eat this or that. The hardest part of our days will not be should I exercise now or later. No, with dignity front and center, the hardest part of our days will be answering the question dignity presents to us: What gift do I bring to this situation that will gift dignity?

Not what opinion. Not what thought. Not what hack. What gift do I bring.

Looking around this morning I am reminded of all the gifts bring. The gift you bring. And you bring (etc). Our gifts are the place where WE and ME meet. They are the places where in their co-working together “the eyes of our hearts are enlightened” (Ephesians) and WE know how to act, WE know how to advocate, WE know how to be fully human, and yes, we discover what it means to be fully alive.

Here is the hard and not-so-happy challenge of 2016, we can not be the 92% of those who choose the failure of “me” over prophetic persistence of “we”. As the Tower of the Holy Innocents goes into the ground to claim the dignity of children dying at the hands of violence in Georgia, they can not afford us to be the 92% - they need us to be the 8% WE.

As apartment buildings get torn down and our fellow-citizens become local refugees (or internally displaced persons), WE must be there for their dignity sake. We can not be the 92% MEs. And yes, even as WE celebrate marriages, or mourn losses and/or experience new opportunities, WE are the holy innocents and WE must remind each other at every turn, at every crossroads, that in 2016 WE MUST BE GREATER THAN ME. (Say that with me)...

Some of you have heard me joke, that I love the fact that the saying of the Creed comes directly after the sermon in our tradition because whether you agree or disagree with the preacher, at least WE can stand and declare what “WE BELIEVE”. And that we believe can do all matter of things. Today and every Sunday in 2016, I encourage you, when we say the creed, let your WE>ME faith resound, carry, inform your me faith. For #WEAREHOLYINNOCENTS, and in 2016, that WE will make all the difference.


Comments (2)

Peggy Shaw on Jan 5, 2016 3:11pm

Nicely said, Joshua.

Betty Barstow on Jan 5, 2016 3:56pm

But WE can only succeed if we make it more about HIM