It is time to reconnect all of life and see it as interdependent, says McLaren


Do you agree that “we need a new Declaration of Interdependence?” the Rev. Brian D. McLaren asked the virtual congregation at the 9:15 a.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 17, morning devotional service on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform.

His homily title was “A New Declaration of Interdependence.” The scripture text was 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 (NRSV) —

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

McLaren began by reading the opening of the original Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. 

“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

These lines from the original Declaration of Independence, he said, were trying to make the point that these 13 states could make a go of it without King George III or Great Britain.

“When we assert independence, we can lean away from tyranny and control, but we may fall over in the opposite direction and exercise tyranny and control,” McLaren said.

The white colonists used their freedom to be tyrants over the Native peoples and oppress Black Africans. “They became more tyrannical than King George,” he told the congregation.

The sentiment, “I’m free and no one can tell me what to do,” is still evident today in the refusal to wear masks in a pandemic, the refusal to pay living wages to employees or drive a fuel-efficient car, or to vote only to benefit yourself and not benefit others.

“Maybe you agree that we need a new Declaration of Interdependence,” McLaren said. Interdependence includes men with women, binary with non-binary, straight with lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, Christian and Jew, Muslim and Buddhists, theists and atheists, the rich with the middle class, between the incarcerated and non-incarcerated, among local, state, national and global governments, the earth with the universe.

In the Christian contemplative tradition, he told the congregation, “There is an emphasis on breathing. You never take a breath, you borrow a breath. You borrow it and return it. You borrow water and return it. You borrow food and return it.”

He continued, “This has been going on for millions of years. I don’t mean to be gross, but the water we drink was drunk by dinosaurs, urinated out and drunk again and again.”

McLaren said that he used to think that 1 Corinthians 12 was only for Christians, but he realized that this is the way to look at the world through the eyes of Christ, to see the interdependence of all humanity, with the earth and the universe. 

“We need to trust in the interdependence of all things,” he said. “God is the self-giving principle that flows in and out of us with every breath.”

He suggested to the congregation that “the next time you eat, really ponder what you are taking in. Give thanks for what you are borrowing. And when you use the toilet, give thanks that the food has provided something profound and valuable.”

The process of giving and receiving is what creates the interdependence of all living things. “As we change our mindset, when we have a renaissance of the heart, we have to be ready to reframe our politics as one of interdependence.”

In closing, he reframed some words from the Declaration of Independence to a Declaration of Interdependence.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to reestablish the political and relational bands which have been broken between them and their neighbors and their environment, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the interdependent rights and responsibilities to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to reconnection.”

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president for religion and senior pastor of Chautauqua Institution, presided from the Hall of Christ. Joshua Stafford, interim organist for Chautauqua Institution, played the Tallman Tracker Organ. Michael Miller, a Chautauqua Opera Apprentice Artist, served as vocal soloist. The organ prelude, performed by Stafford, was “Moderato,” by Edward Elgar. Miller sang the hymn, “The Stars Declare His Glory.” The anthem was “Allegretto pensoso,” by Elgar, sung by Miller. Stafford played “Poco Allegro,” by Elgar, for the postlude. This program is made possible by the Edmond E. Robb – Walter C. Shaw Fund and the Randall-Hall Memorial Chaplaincy.

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The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.