"Communication and Relationship"

Deacon Deborah Drake

Homily for Communion from the Reserved Sacrament, February 16, 2020 (Deacon Deborah Drake)


Communication is so important and the way which we communicate maybe even more important.  Think of the ways we communicate.  Most times when we communicate we assume people know certain facts about the subject.  But what happens when we assume?  Sometimes I do this with my husband and I’ll say “Donna had a tea at her house today and invited neighbors to get to know them, isn’t that great” My husband will say “Donna who?” 

Our churches assume much when we communicate to the outside world.  Many of the signs outside our churches show our assumptions when you look at the sayings on the church signs.  I always read them and say to myself how would a totally unchurched person interpret these sayings on the church signs?

For instance:  “Don’t give up, Moses was once a basket case”.  Now to many of us this may sound funny but what are we assuming here?  We are assuming people know the scripture story about Moses!

So, if someone is totally unchurched how would they know the story of Moses?

Or a sign saying “He died for you” what do the words mean to someone who is totally unchurched.  Over the past ten years, the unchurched population has remained stable at one third of the American population, the latest Barna Group survey showed.  An estimated 73 million adults are presently unchurched. When teens and children are added, the total swells to roughly 100 million Americans. We are guilty of “too much jargon” in our churches. We have a lot of “insider” language such as “Spiritual warfare”, “…in my walk with the Lord”, blood of the lamb,   It’s so easy to assume that unchurched people ‘must know’ at least the basics of the Christian faith.

We need to lose that thinking.. Make it easy for everyone to access what you are talking about whenever you are talking about your faith.

More than just removing language that mostly just confuses people who are new to the church, we need to slow down and take nothing for granted when we communicate as a church.  When someone gets up to talk, make sure they introduce themselves or that someone else does a quick introduction. “Hi, my name is James and I’m one of the wardens here.” A simple introduction helps unchurched people get a sense of who everyone is and helps them know whom they should talk to afterward. When people just get up and start talking or leading without any context, it leaves guests wondering who the person is and why they are talking.

I believe in today’s gospel from Matthew Jesus is saying something similar to us.  You will start at a point and continue to grow in your understanding of living a life guided by God.  Obeying the commandments is basic for all Christians.  This is like an intro to Christian life.  Once you understand and try to live by the commandments than Jesus says go beyond the basic and consider that even your thoughts will live by the commandments.  For instance, the commandments states you shall not commit adultery, Jesus mentions this subject because he knows human nature all too well.

Okay, you have not committed adultery but Jesus says that’s the foundation of the commandment but you need to take it further and not even think lustful thoughts about someone whom you are not in intimate relationship with. 

Paul in Colossians says you must be fed milk before you can have solid food.  So it is with Christians on their spiritual journey.  How much so it is with people who are totally unchurched.  Jesus’ intensifying and internalizing the law means that we cannot live as one person on the inside and another on the outside. It’s a remedy to living a dividend and fragmented life.

To the degree we are divided within ourselves, one person on the inside and another on the outside, we will be separated from God and each other.

A Pastor explained it this way:  More than once I have said to my wife, “Just tell me the right answer and I’ll say it. Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it.” I was trying to keep the rules not the relationship. It’s not hard to guess how well that worked. It didn’t! She didn’t want the right answer or even the right behavior. She wanted me. She wanted relationship. That’s what today’s gospel is about.

Most of us have probably never murdered another person. But have our anger, insults, or name-calling left another dead to us so that they are just no longer a part of our world?  The unchurched want to see us in our relationships, we lead people to Jesus by the examples of our words and how we live our lives.  To follow the Ten Commandments or laws is the foundation and Jesus knows we need to also change the inside. 

I would challenge us to think about the law of God not in terms of doing a certain number of impossible things before breakfast, but in terms of being in the right relationship … with God and with those around us. It is not about your need to do the right thing, color within the lines, keep your nose clean; no, it is about loving your neighbor, controlling your anger, modifying your drives for personal fulfillment, all to the end that you might be an instrument for deepening and strengthening the community in which you live.  That’s how people will want to know us better, people will know we are Christians by our Love.  Amen.