Shared humanity

On the weekend I was invited to share a meditation with a group of women from my church who had come together to simply connect and build community. I'm posting what I shared. I attribute much of it to Barabara Brown Taylor from her book An Altar in the World.


Text :Matthew 22:37-39 (The Message)

34-36 When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, theygathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for
them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command
in God’s Law is the most important?”

37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion andprayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list.
But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love
yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the
Prophets hangs from them.”

In my work as a spiritual director I talk sometimes about spiritual practices that if
incorporated into the rhythms of our ordinary days may help us tune into God’s
presence and work in and around us.

Recently I came across an idea for a helpful practice from Barabara Brown-Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World. The practice she introduces has to do with building
community through recognizing our shared humanity. She calls it the practice of encountering others. She says that this practice requires, no special setting, no personal trainer, no expensive equipment. It can be done anywhere by anyone who resolves to do it. A good way to warm up is to focus on one of the human beings who usually sneak right past you because they are performing some mundane service such as taking your order or handing you your change. The next time you go to the grocery store, try engaging the cashier. You do not have to invite her home for lunch or anything, but take a good look at her face while she is trying to find “arugula” on her laminated list of products.

Here is someone who exists even when she is not ringing up your groceries, as hard as
that may be for you to imagine. She is someone’s daughter, maybe someone’s
mother as well. She has a home she returns to when she hangs up her apron here,
a kitchen that smells like last night’s supper, a bed where she occasionally
lies awake at night wrestling with her own demons and angels……. acknowledge her
when she hands you your change.

“You saved eleven dollars and six cents by shopping at [Meijer] today she says looking
right at you.” And all that is required of you is to look back. Just meet her eyes for a moment when you say “thanks.”

Sometimes that is all another person needs to know that she has been seen – not
the cashier but the person – but even if she does not seem to notice, the
encounter has occurred. You noticed, and because you did, neither of you will ever
be quite the same again.

The reason that’s true is that in that moment you both became a little more human. And remember God chose to inhabit our humanity. Taylor says that encountering another human being is as close to God as we can get -in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing – which is where God’s Beloved
has promised to show up. In the other. In the person standing in front of you.
In the person sitting across from you - the person - who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life
is an unsolved mystery.

Taylor says this practice is about learning to get over yourself and to love the God who
gave you and gave the woman next to you – life and love and heart and strength
and soul and mind. So let’s celebrate this morning – the presence of God here
with us – sitting at your table – looking you in the eye.

Peace and goodness to you,