Closing Homily for Middle and Upper School Faculty, May 29, 2019
A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (1:32-35) The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.
I love this image of a community being in one heart and mind. Where no one says “this is mine” about their possessions. Notice that being in one heart and one mind is not about conformity of thought or based on some societal hierarchical structure. Being of one heart and one mind is about being on the same page that nothing belongs to anyone because it belongs to everyone.
Sharing isn’t about answering the question “What do I get?”Rather sharing is about answering the question “How can I help you?”
This year I had the privilege of spending almost everyday of the week sitting on the floor in Saint Michael Chapel at the Lower School with our Beginners.Talk about a group of 3-4 years olds who have clear understandings about what is mine and what is yours. Throughout our time of worship there was a steady momentum of having to:
-make space for the person seated next to you, even if you didn’t want to (that was often a daily challenge)
-take turns getting to set up the altar and light the Jesus candle
-take turns putting an ornament on the Jesse Tree or opening the Lent journey backpack to see what object would help us remember God in our lives
-and most importantly, learn to listen to one another instead of talk over each other
It took some time.
They eventually became a community of one heart and one mind. They learned how to share in that sacred space. They learned how to help. They learned how to listen.
One of my favorite moments from a month ago (and I could write a wonderful book about all that they each said over the school year), was when the young girl sitting next to me in the leader role realized we had time for a short word game before the other classes arrived. She asked if we could play the letter game. She’d ask each of her friends to “give me a word starting with the Letter and then make the sound of that letter”. Well one of her friends was not happy about having to sit next to another classmate and the tears and frustration were visible. My leader friend called out her name and said “give me a word starting with the letter b- buh, buh”.As her friend wiped her eyes and thought for a moment, my leader friend turned to me and quietly said “Revran Heller I gave her an easy one. She’s having a rough day.”
Doesn’t that make your heart melt. I teared up. How many people on that very morning had I walked by someone because I was so preoccupied with my own busy schedule that I missed out on who might be having a ‘rough day’. How many times have I forgotten to include someone because I was only thinking about myself and not about what would be helpful for them? How many times have I missed a chance to include someone else because I only wanted to be with my group of friends? This Beginner’s generous act is just one small reminder of the one community we have the wonderful opportunity of becoming every day and not just for our students but for ourselves. But the key to it is to follow the example of my little leader friend who clearly had paid attention and knew that her friend was having a rough day. It means being able to be of one heart and one mind about the stuff that really matters here.
Not the buildings, or the office space, or the technology, or the play space, or the dining commons, or the art spaces, or the gyms. Those will all come together. We will share those and hold those in common because well because we have to.
No the stuff that really matters that will make us truly one community is when we are of one heart and one mind and no one is needy among us. No one feels undervalued, unappreciated, talked about, afraid, left out. This means we have to create clear intentions and practice about how we speak to one another in person and in email, how we speak about one another to other people, how we pay attention to who is having the rough days and please, please may we always find ourselves erring on the side of being so inclusive that none of us feels less than anyone else or always left out. I believe this is what that first generation of Christians experienced when they held everything in common and spoke to anyone who would hear about their faith. They modeled Jesus’ way of love that works for any community to this day.
ESD is One community. We are a lot of intentionally diverse people who hold in common that no one is in need of respect, care, and love because we do that for one another every day.