The whole community was tense. There were conflicts about the right things to do, even disagreements about who was the true leader. Economic inequity, fighting over who had the better gifts that would make them the leaders, people engaged in frivolous lawsuits against each other. Who has the power to determine what is right or wrong?
To the anguished and conflicted community in ancient Corinth, Saint Paul explains patiently that these divided and disparate persons are actually all parts of the same body—that’s how connected they truly are, united in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “I will show you a still more excellent way.”
That most excellent way is love. Love is the measure of health in the body of Christ—are you growing financially and looking great on the outside? Without love, it doesn’t matter. Are you able to understand the immense complexities of a worldwide pandemic? If your actions aren’t informed by love, then your knowledge means nothing. Have you taken this time during the pandemic to assess your appetites and master your passions to achieve the utmost in self-control? If your practice is not grounded in love, it’s garbage.
Friends, we are living in incredibly amazing and disorienting times—amazing because our community can gather via livestream through the mystery of the Holy Spirit working through technology! How is the body of Christ being configured right now, joining us together like limbs through bones and tendons—I don’t know, but I trust the Holy Spirit is up to somethin’ good!
And it’s disorienting because I’m here in an almost-empty sanctuary. And you’re at home with your family, or even alone. It doesn’t feel like we’re truly together.
And yet—there’s still good news to report. Did you know that Good News still exists? Even now, in a world of overflowing hospitals, storms and earthquakes, rumors of wars—there’s still Good News. And we can’t fix everything that is broken. But we can refuse to be agents of disaster. We can steadfastly deny the powers of disintegration.
We can consciously decide to be part of that good news, to report it with our words and actions. We can still choose to align ourselves with God’s will. The kin-dom of God, the family of all of us who seek God’s wisdom and choose God’s goodness, the kin-dom of God is about healing.
Jesus speaks truth—as he did in his hometown synagogue—and challenges an insider view of history, heals the brokenness of division, makes possible the growth of love for those people who are marginalized, who are othered. Healing of people rooted in love—we too are called to this work of healing.
There’s much in our world to be healed. That’s why we do things like broadcast our welcome of LGBTQ+ persons—because we can’t settle for less than love expressed in full welcome, acceptance, and celebration. It’s for the sake of healing that we learn to notice how white supremacy remains active in our culture—it has thoroughly infected our systems and institutions, but this isn’t who we want to be; we need truth-telling so that healing can happen. It’s for the sake of healing that we take notice of who is hungry and find ways to share food and share resources so that no one goes without their daily needs.
God has given the words of the prophets—God’s hand has touched our mouths—and called us, like the prophet Jeremiah, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. Not just to dismantle systems but to build up better ones.
But the thing is: we can do all of those righteous things, but if we aren’t doing it because in our foundation we are rooted in love, we’re incomplete. And sure, it’s good to welcome people, it’s good to feed people, it’s good to find reconciliation with history.
But if we’re satisfied with simply feeling good, we’re missing out the best part: the joy of union with God.
What other love can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things? Friends, I don’t know about you, but enduring through a pandemic has just about tested the limits of my strength—I don’t have any more! But God, in God’s grace, has a limitless supply of grace, an abundance of endurance, a wealth of love. This love is here for you. It’s given freely to each of us. The invitation is always here.
Accepting the invitation to love takes practice. Lots of humility. A willingness to forgive, to value growth over being right. Reverence helps—taking it seriously—but also an attitude of playfulness, an ability to laugh at yourself, to trust God and trust the process. Kind of like learning a new instrument. It’s gonna be awkward at first, but with practice and persistence, there is beauty.
In St. Paul’s beautiful words, in one of his most enduring and well-known illustrations, without love, one is like a noisy gong.
Have you ever played a gong? Have you ever heard a gong? Can you imagine what it would sound like played noisily? In the words of our music director, Dr. Aria Thome, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s truly horrendous.”
Perhaps you don’t know how very fortunate we are to have among us an experienced gong instrumentalist and sound healer! Our music director, Dr. Thome, has a PhD in Sacred Music and has certification in sound healing, which uses multiple instruments and the gong is one of them. So that means she has been trained in using the gong as an instrument of healing. So I’ve asked her to demonstrate some sounds on the gong and she’ll tell us a little about her training.
Can you demonstrate what a noisy gong sounds like? (Describe sound out loud: dissonant, disorganized, harsh, sharp, etc.)
And can you demonstrate how it sounds when the gong is used in a healing way? (Describe sound: gentle, like waves on water, etc.)
How did you first get to learn about sound healing?
Via Gregorian chant, after Vatican II the monks were lacking energy because there was no more chanting in liturgy, an ENT in France studied this and put chanting back in to their communal life and the monks were healthier
How did you study the gong in particular?
Vibrations and sound are part of life on earth
What would it feel like if people were here in person or if they experienced a sound healing session?
Description of physical aspects of sound healing: hairs stand up on your arms, maybe feel tingling in your head, heart rate slows/becomes more rhythmic, breathing becomes more regular, other body systems—like a sonic massage!
When did you have a practice that you “weren’t into” or “weren’t feelin’ it” with the gong?
Recite a mantra “let go and let God” and trust that God interprets the sound of the gong for healing
Were you feeling better by the end of the session?
How do you see God working through the gong and the work of sound healing?
The intention of surrounding the gong practice with love, and calling back the words of Paul about how it makes a discernable difference to root your words and actions in love.
We’ll close with some sounds from the gong, used in a healing way, and even though you may not hear the depth and richness and warmth of the sound through this livestream, consider your own life: how do you want to set your intention to share God’s love? How is God calling you to bring healing to the world now?
Play the gong for one or two minutes.
 Jeremiah 4:10