I need you all
There is a suite, by the composer Aaron Copland, called Appalachian Spring. It was written in the mid 20th Century, and first performed in 1945. It’s a particular favourite of mine at the moment. Appalachian Spring is one of those pieces that nobody has heard of, but everybody recognises. One of the themes is used as the tune for the hymn “Lord of the Dance”.
Now, “Lord of the Dance” is not in our hymn book, and there are probably a lot of ideas in it that we, as Christadelphians, do not agree with. But there is one line that I think we all could agree with: “I need you all wherever you may be, And I need you all in the Dance, said he”. Does God need us all? Does Christ need us all? From a practical point of view, of course they don’t. We need God to provide us with all that we have, but he doesn’t need us. We need salvation through the work of Christ, but Christ didn’t need us to help him complete that work.
But you can need people on an emotional level as well as in a practical way, and that is the way that God and Christ need us all. Matthew 7, verses 7 to 11:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
This passage teaches that God loves us as a father loves his children. We all know that, but it is so easy to forget what it means. Most of us have been parents, either as literal parents, or as uncles, aunts, and carers. If I was to ask you “Do you need your children to be happy? Do you need your children to be safe?” you would all answer “yes”. At the end of the day, your children’s happiness doesn’t actually change your physical well-being. You can’t be said to need your children’s happiness on a practical level. But on an emotional level, on an instinctive level, the happiness and safety of those who you love as children is the most important thing in the world. In fact it is the emotional relationship that defines parenthood, not merely the biological one.
Think about this passage again. God loves us as his children. Does God need us to be happy, to be safe, does he need us to be “in the dance”? Of course he does. We all know this passage well, so you don’t need to look it up. Luke 12, verses 22 to 32
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
God loves us as a parents love their children, and God needs us as a parent needs their children. But what of Christ? How does he need us?
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Fathers commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
God loves us as parents love their children. Christ loves us as we love our friends. Just as we need out friends, Christ needs us.
Please turn to Genesis 45. Genesis 45, verses 1 to 15:
Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy childrens children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty. And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither. And he fell upon his brother Benjamins neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.
Here we have Joseph’s emotional reunion with his brothers. Despite all that had happened between them, Joseph loved his brothers. He needed them. He needed him in his kingdom, Egypt. All the wrong that they had done was as nothing to Joseph.
There are many parallels between Joseph and Christ, and I’ve exhorted on them before. But today I want us to think about the desire Joseph felt, about how much he wanted to be with his brothers, how much he needed them. Surely it is not arrogant to assume that Christ also desires to share his Kingdom with us, his brothers, his friends, who he laid down his life for.
It is this love for us, this need of us that we now remember as we share this bread and wine.