Sermon: We All Need One Another

Sermon given by Ruth Wilde at Holy Trinity Church Twydall, Gillingham on the 12th February 2023

Gen 1:1 – 2:3; Matt 6: 25-end

There are passages in the Bible that are very hard to hear for different groups. I am not going to lie – this passage from Matthew is hard to hear for people living in poverty. ‘Don’t worry’! How is it even possible to not worry about what you’ll eat, when you’re not sure you’ll be able to put food on the table for your family?

This passage has often been preached by priests and ministers who have never had any experience of poverty. It has also more often than not been preached to a congregation of people who have not had any experience of poverty. But to those in our churches who are in the minority, and for whom poverty is a real life experience, our preaching on this passage might be heard as patronising and insulting – understandably so.

This is the kind of Bible passage where it’s important to get some context. There’s a clue there in the word ‘Therefore’ at the beginning – an indication that we should look back a bit to what came before! In the previous section, Jesus has been talking about wealth, and specifically telling his listeners to not store up wealth. He then goes on to say that we cannot serve two masters – both wealth and God. This does not seem to me to be a message predominantly aimed at people living on the breadline, for whom poverty is – in the words of Gustavo Gutierrez – ‘a violence’. The message in our passage for today is aimed instead at those who have plenty.

There is a danger in wealth. There are in fact many dangers in wealth, but I want to speak about one particular danger today. Wealth can make us succumb to one of the biggest lies going – the huge lie that is self-reliance, independence and individualism. This makes us detached from others and from our own needs, not to mention detached from God.

At this week’s debate and vote on LGBT+ relationships in the General Synod of the Church of England, someone – I believe it was a bishop – stood up and said that it was important to remember that the Church is a body and we need all parts of that body. I believe this is true not only of the Church, but even of the world. We all need one another. We pretend that it is only people we see as dependent – for example, older people, disabled people and people living in poverty – who need others. The truth is that we all do. We cannot see what tomorrow will bring – Jesus was absolutely right about that, and that’s part of what he’s saying about the futility of worrying about tomorrow – and we therefore do not know if tomorrow we will fall into poverty, or become ill, or have our life changed in some other momentous way. We believe the lie of independence until we are shocked into not believing it anymore because our circumstances change. How much better is it to realise that we are all dependent on one another and God now?

Tomorrow, we could lose our job, we could have a turn of events which means we need to spend all our savings, or even empty out our pension. We could have an accident or discover we have a progressive illness. We could even just realise that we are getting older. Suddenly, the people we have ‘othered’ – disabled, poor, old etc – become part of us and we realise that we need others just as much as they need us. We need our community. We need God.

Seeing poor people and disabled people as uniquely dependent and vulnerable is not only condescending to those people, who are often more independent than we think, but also a big lie we tell ourselves so we feel better, safer and essentially more powerful. We need no-one. Not God and not other people. This was what I believe Jesus was getting at in this passage.

For someone living under the violence of extreme poverty, it is impossible to see much beyond the next meal and where it is coming from. That is why it is violence. It robs people of their humanity and dignity and of their human flourishing. They are not able to live, as they are only just surviving. However, for the rest of us, there are things which are more important things than ourselves and our money to place our trust in.

My wife and I belong to several spiritual communities, including a Quaker meeting and a Methodist church. One community we belong to is a house group called Peacemeal. We don’t even have time to attend much these days, but that community has been hugely supportive over the past 7 years or so. They supported Ellie when she had an accident with a ladder and I was away, they brought us meals when we were struggling with time and energy, and they have constantly upheld us in prayer, just as we have them. It’s a long story, but our 4 year old son, Brendan, would not exist were it not for Peacemeal.

If there is one thing I want to teach Brendan, it’s the importance of having community around him – especially a community of people he can trust and rely on – people who will support him through thick and thin. This might be just day to day support and prayer, but it might also be that he needs them to support him if he loses his job or a family member or he becomes ill.

We all need one another. This is true of the Church too. The Church needs its LGBT+ siblings, including LGBT+ clergy members, and the gifts and insights they/we bring. The Church also needs its disabled siblings, who often have gifts we don’t recognise because we are fixated on their needs. We also need those who are economically disenfranchised – those living in poverty. They are also just people, and they too have gifts and wisdom to offer the Church. They are not just recipients of our charity! One day we might become one of them. They are not a distant ‘other’ any more than disabled or older people are – everyone could become disabled or ill, and we’ll certainly get old, if we are fortunate enough.

Let me finish by taking us back to the Genesis reading for today. God created and brought into being everyone and everything. We are sustained in life by the ground of all being. We need not only one another but God too.

God, it says in the story, created male and female… and everything in between too. God created night and day… and dawn and dusk too. These are two examples of something Jewish scholars talk about called a ‘merism’. It is a figure of speech by which a large concept is explained by a phrase naming two parts of that concept. So, night and day is one, and male and female is another. A third used in the scriptures is ‘God knows my standing up and my sitting down’, by which the writer means all the writer’s life, of course. Let’s not reduce the expansive poetry of the Bible into small, one-dimensional biblical literalism. Our trans and nonbinary siblings are in God’s plans too.

God is in all the diversity of life. Everyone and everything is interdependent. We are all part of the ever-expanding, ever-changing family of creation, which God brought into existence and which God loves and sustains. We are all part of the body of Christ with its many parts, with its multitude of needs and gifts and insights. Every single one of us is needed by God and every single one of us needs God and needs one another.

What a beautiful thing that is.


Ruth Wilde is the National Coordinator of Inclusive Church.