Thinking in “We”

September 4, 2016  

Pentecost 16, 2016
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Our Savior’s Lutheran, La Crosse

Thinking in “We”

Tuesday I called my brother up on the phone to wish him a happy birthday. It is a tradition between some of us in our family, when we call to say happy birthday we actually sing it to whoever is celebrating their birthday. So, when my brother answered the phone I sang to him.

Thursday, my brother and his daughter called me up to sing happy birthday to me. I was out for dinner with my niece’s family so I let it go to voicemail and listened to them sing later, at home. My parents called, as well. What a blessing to listen to my 82 year old mother and 89 year old father sing to me.

At the end of my brother and niece’s birthday message to me, I heard my niece say, “Now let’s call Diane!”

Diane is my twin sister. She and I shared text messages during the day on Thursday. But I hadn’t talked to her so I called her after listening to my brother and niece. When she answered I began to sing Happy Birthday. I sang “Happy birthday to we…”

When a person is a twin or triplet or quadruplet, the person lives his or her life thinking in “we.” Even after years of separation, marriages, families, jobs, different geographic locations—twins/triplets/quadruplets—there is always a “we” that transcends space and time.

We don’t live in a “we” world, we live in a “me” world.

When we hear someone say “Me, me me…” we know the person is talking about him or herself, not practicing vocals.

Thursday, when I sang “Happy birthday to we…” to my sister we both started to laugh and said at the same time “Wee, wee, wee, all the way home.” We were both thinking of the little pig going home from the market… Both of us, thinking the same thing, although there was over a hundred miles separating us.

We were thinking in “we.”

In the reading Sheila read from Deuteronomy, Moses was giving his farewell address to the Israelites. He had traveled with the Israelites out of slavery. They had wandered through the wilderness for years. In this reading, they had a bird’s eye view of the Promised Land.

Moses knew he wouldn’t be traveling any further with his people. He had a few last words to share, including a choice: Life or death.

You might hear the words of Moses and think the choices he offers the Israelites are choices for each one of them, as individuals. You might think each one of the travelers is being asked to choose life or death, to receive blessings or curses, to experience prosperity or adversity. You might be thinking that because it is the way people think in our world, in this society: people think in “me,” not “We.”

Moses was addressing the community. Moses was addressing the Israelites as a people, not as persons. Moses was saying to his community of faith, to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: you people have a choice. As a community, you have a choice. The Israelites would have known that because they lived as a community of “we,” not “me.” They survived as a community of “We,” not as a bunch of individual “me, me, me-s.”

It is called the Deuteronomic Code.

If the people of Israel, Abraham’s descendants, chose life they would receive blessings. Choosing life meant choosing to love God. Choosing life meant choosing to obey God. Choosing life meant choosing to hold fast to God, to cling to God.

Choosing death was to choose to be disobedient. Choosing death was to choose to be separate from God—to either love other gods or to simply step out of having any love for God, at all. To choose death was to choose to let go of God, creating a distant relationship.

Terence Fretheim, a Lutheran scholar suggests that we need to know that the people of Israel were not looking ahead to a relationship with God they might have if they made the right choice, they were looking at sustaining a life they already had (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, The Israelites were living in community with one another and with God. Moses was encouraging them to sustain that relationship, to continue to be obedient to God, to continue to love God, to continue to cling to God.

What does this mean?

The answer is difficult.

I say it is difficult because the answer demands that we, living in the 21st century, take on a way of thinking that is thousands of years old.

I say it is difficult because the answer demands that we “think in we” rather than thinking in me.

Everything in our world tells us to think “me.” I need to think about “me” myself, and I. I need to do what’s best for me. I need to protect my best interests. I need to choose between life and prosperity, or death and adversity.

This reading, read from the proper context, wants us to ignore me and think “we.”

Do we choose life or death? Love or separation? Obedience or disobedience? Relationship or individualism? Do we cling or do we let go?

This isn’t about us as individuals or about us as a congregation, this is about putting ourselves in the context of a congregation that exists in a larger context, a context bigger than who we are in this place, bigger than who we are in our synod, bigger than who we are as Lutherans… this is about who we are as Christians.

It is much easier to think about me, because I have some level of control over my relationship with God.

It is much easier to think about us as a congregation because we have a structure in place for thinking that way.

It is easy to think about ourselves as part of a synod, or as Lutherans, because we have structures and doctrines that guide that kind of thinking.

How do we think as Christian people, as a global Christian family? Knowing all of the differences that exist within Christianity—how do we even begin to think about ourselves as a family? As a huge, global, diverse family?

I look to my own family for ideas. What do we do to sustain who we are: we talk, we get together, we play, we sing…

Those are things we can do in a larger context. If we are choosing life, as Christian people living in community, we are asking God to be with us and to guide us as we talk with others, as we get together with others, as we play with others, as we sing together new songs, singing in “we” rather than me.

Thinking in “we.”

Living in “we.”