Another One of Me

“Did you preach that sermon for me?”

It was not an unfamiliar question during coffee hour, but the exchange that followed was new. I replied to my questioner, a person I knew quite well, that I hadn’t prepared that sermon with him specifically in mind, although I could see why it resonated with him. He replied, “I’m not sure what to think about the fact that someone else is facing what I’m facing. It either makes me feel less special or less lonely, or maybe both.”

I knew what he meant. Several years ago, I was waiting to board a plane when the gate agent called my name. Not knowing if I was being bumped or being upgraded, I jumped out of my seat and hurried up to the desk. I was surprised when another woman approached at the same time. Except for our middle initial, we shared the same name, and I had received her boarding pass by mistake. For people named John Smith, this might be a regular occurrence, but for someone named Kendra Mohn, it was a downright shock. Without using the same words, I shared the same reaction as my parishioner: I wasn’t sure whether to feel disappointed or excited that there was “another one of me” out there.

Like my parishioner, many people find that participation in a faith community leads to the realization that they are not alone, which is simultaneously uncomfortable and reassuring. I suspect this it is one of the reasons people avoid authentic community, and others seek it. When we preach, we speak to that reality, claiming that no matter what isolates us in our suffering, our need for Jesus is the same. On the one hand, we are each a unique creation of a loving God whose story is like no other; on the other, we are also part of a human community whose sin and suffering produce common consequences.

Recognizing this healthy tension is part of the Christian life, and can call us to respond to God’s grace by attending to the needs of our neighbors. Although I have yet to see her again, I often think of the other Kendra Mohn. Simply knowing that she is out there, another one of me, I pray for her and hope she is well. When we preach, we have the opportunity to introduce our people to each other, and to the rest of the world, as children who belong to the same human family and who are all claimed by God. We can remind one another that we are tethered together as God’s redeemed creation. Though it can be unsettling, the fact that we are not alone is also good news. The reach of the cross extends to all.