Am I my brother’s keeper?

Weekly Reflection, Friday, February 25

By: David May

Senior seminarians in the Episcopal Church take a set of exams called the General Ordination Exams (GEOs), which cover core areas like the Bible, Ethics, Liturgics, etc. I took GEOs in January 1993 and one of the ‘Bible’ questions has stayed with me. The question asked if, “the biblical witness, taken as a whole, emphasizes the priority of the individual or the priority of the community in God’s eyes?” The answer (with no desire to be cagey!) is ‘yes.’ The Bible proclaims the beauty and splendor of each created person. This is especially established in the book of Genesis with the words proclaiming that each person is made in God’s image. Like, the annoying person who parked their cart in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store, your neighbor who is losing it as a teacher, your friend who drinks too much, the immigrant at Walmart with two loaded carts, the harassed mother in the turning lane who stays put and texts all the way through the green light. God established in creation, His kind regard for each one of them.

Later in Genesis, God looks at the creature God has just made and realizes, ‘oh no! It is not good that the man should be alone.’ God made us to be with each other. In fact, it looks like we can’t be fully human without each other. God’s intention is for us to be a people who belong to each other and to God. There is no ‘I’ or ‘me’ without there also being an ‘us’ and ‘we.’ Which, frankly, cuts starkly against our current cultural and social esteem for the priority of the individual above all else.

So, which is it – the individual or the community that God treasures most? Am I my brother’s keeper? Who is my neighbor? I think how we live into those questions is part of the splendor and wonder of this glorious life that God has given to us, and a part of the means of God’s salvation.

I find myself interested in this again as we enter into Lent together. Lent is a sacred time to look our own hearts squarely in the eye. I have work to do with God and God has work to do with me. But we’re meant to do that in a community of sisters and brothers, where we say, ‘You’re not alone. I am in need of forgiveness, too. God knows.’ This bond of our common, broken, and beautiful humanity – when we know it – is such a source of joy and healing.

So, I urge you, to come to church to be together, or join us through the livestream. You are precious in the eyes of God and precious to your sisters and brothers here. The season of Lent begins this coming Wednesday. We will offer the Ash Wednesday Liturgy at 12 p.m. (which will be livestreamed) and 6 p.m. in New St. Mary’s. In the beloved community of Jesus, ‘we’, by God’s grace, given the ‘me’ that is most truly whom God made you to be in the first place.