Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One body, one flesh

Mark 10: 2-16 
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE 
October 4, 2015



Before it was “Our Whole Lives”, it was “About Your Sexuality”, originally published in 1970 by the Unitarian Universalist Association. This course in sex education was based on the belief that sexuality is a natural and healthy part of being human. It was considered very controversial for its time, even up through the mid-1990s when it was replaced with “Our Whole Lives”, a joint publication of the UCC and the UUA. OWL classes have been a part of the New Ark since 2004.

It was in an AYS class that I first heard George Carlin and his seven words you can’t say on television, as well as his bit about sex in commercials. “Should a man offer a lady a Tiparillo?” It was the first time I had heard some of these words and ideas and what people do with them. 

Imagine the home of a middle-class heterosexual couple: both are clinical psychologists and church members, teaching sex education to a group of about a dozen 7th and 8th graders. We’re in the living room, some of us on the couch or on the floor or in a chair. George is put on the turntable, and the album cover gets passed around, with George in his trench coat and a kinda goofy look on his face. No one telling us to be quiet; no one saying we can’t speak those words. And we’re laughing, some of us so hard we’re about to pee in our pants.

But not all of us were laughing. One girl looked around the room at each of us with a bewildered look on her face, as if she were silently asking us to explain why it was all so funny. Of course, being the sometimes-obnoxious 12-and-13-year-olds that we were, this made us laugh even more. It was like any other time someone doesn’t get the joke, except this time it was cruel. Talking about sex makes us vulnerable, and the laughter eased some of that vulnerability. Except for her. Instead, the laughter compounded the shame that kept her from being vulnerable in a safe and healthy way. And no, sadly our teachers didn’t seem to notice what was going on.

Violence and anger indeed have the power to tear us asunder, as we have just witnessed in our nation once again, but it is incidents like the one I just described that occur every day and do harm nonetheless, when we write someone off. When we write someone off, dismiss them—their feelings, their experience different from ours, their viewpoint—we can’t do it with a tender, vulnerable heart. In the gospel passage from Mark, Jesus says that Moses allowed men to divorce by writing a certificate—essentially, writing off their wives—because of the hardness of their hearts.

The Pharisees challenge Jesus about how one can divorce, but Jesus responds with the reasons for marriage, about a relationship in which one can experience the intimacy and glory of God. Jesus speaks of one man and one woman becoming one flesh, but for quite some time now we know that love, and now marriage, are not limited to heterosexual relationships. But I’d like to expand this even further to all human relationships and connections.

Expressing our sexuality with another person doesn’t make us one flesh; our sexuality reminds us that we are all one flesh. Sexuality can be the most vulnerable, most intimate reminder that how we behave, what we do to another person, we do to ourselves; that how we treat ourselves and our attitude toward our bodies affects not only us but those around us. In essence, Jesus teaches his disciples to not take lightly the bonds we form with one another, to not turn flesh-and-blood people into objects. Rather, to experience God’s realm of wholeness we must be like a little child: vulnerable and tender-hearted.

So why talk about human sexuality on World Communion Sunday? Sexuality is a form of communion, a joining, a holy bond. And around our world and in our own country, sexuality is exploited, suppressed, and used violently as a weapon. We do not live as one flesh, rather we are torn asunder. 

For the most part, the church has been tongue-tied when it comes to both the joy of our sexuality and the pain experienced not only when our sexuality has been abused but also in the ensuing silence in our local congregations. We all come to the Table bruised and wounded, but there are some that do not see the light of day. How can we be a whole people, how can we be whole persons in community, in communion with one another, worshiping a StillSpeaking God, when we as church are reserved about something so vital as human sexuality?

It is at this Table we are reminded that underneath it all we are one Body; 

that God’s desire for us is wholeness, healing, and justice, and to be intimate with us and through us; 

that through the vulnerable life of Jesus, the promise of wholehearted love is not a broken life but resurrection. 

If no other place, here is where we hear the good news: God looked upon all that was created and declared it good. 


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As part of our worship, we read an affirmation of our faith and sexuality that was written by one of our church members who is a trained instructor for Our Whole Lives.


(based on values of the UCC around sexuality)

As believers in a faith based in incarnation, it is important for us to reaffirm our sexuality as a God-given gift.

We affirm persons of every age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

The purposes of sexuality are to enhance human wholeness and fulfillment;

To express love, commitment, delight, and pleasure;

To bring new life into the world;

To give glory to God.

When making decisions about sexuality, the primary guide is God’s call to love and justice as revealed in Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

God calls us to express mutuality, love, and justice through our sexuality.

We value the worth and well-being of all people and the systems, institutions, and economies that promote wholeness and safety for everyone.

We affirm that women and girls, men and boys have equal choice and responsibility engaging in their sexuality.

We, the church, will advocate for and stand in solidarity with those who are sexually oppressed or victims of violence and abuse.

We, the church, declare ourselves to be a safe and open community to have informed discussion and education about sexuality.

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