Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bearing One Another in Love

"Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Colossians 3:14-17

Recently the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow gay and lesbians living in committed relationships to be rostered leaders. This is contingent on the "bond conscience" of individual pastors, congregations, and synods. The issues involved are too many to go into in this blog. The Biblical work that needs to be done to be able to come to an informed decisions on this issue is too great for this space. Even then there would be disagreements about the final interpretation. However, I feel compelled to write about it. In college I wrote a paper on the Biblical issues involved in the debate over homosexuality. For me, this issues is not about an idea, a political position, an ideology, or church doctrine. It is about real people living in real life situations. It is about the Church and its future. All of those things aside I wonder if the church can live in this in between space that the assembly of the ELCA called us to. In other words, can people who disagree about an issue that is so heated continue to hold together as church?

As Christians what holds us together is not a stance on an issue. What holds us together is Jesus Christ died and raised for our sins. It is a radical statement of community and togetherness. Because we say that what matters most is not ideology, political stances, or even theological disagreements. What holds us together is our love for God and one another. This day I ache for my brothers and sisters in Christ who feel that their church has been taken from them. Even as I celebrate for my colleagues who are free to be themselves. It is a place that is not so comfortable to live in. Because their is no cause to support only relationships to mend and to uphold.

The greatest commandment in the Bible is a command to love. We often misunderstand this commandment because we think love is about how we feel about others. But Jesus command is not about feeling, but about action. We are to love even if we don't like, even if we don't agree, and most radically even if we are treated badly. It is a high ideal, but one I believe in to my core. Can we as the church live in a place of love instead of sides of an issue? I don't know. I am willing to try. Are you?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Picking Sides

Watching people at town hall meetings yell at their representatives, each other, and well anyone else they disagree with has been disheartening. But this is the way we as human beings tend to be wired. We have no time for the details. We really don't want all the facts. What we seem to be interested in is the side or position we should take. I can't speak for everyone, but personally I am tired of it. I think it is good (and normal) that people think different about the world, politics, religion. What is not good is that we have no time to listen or to understand what is going on. I mean do any of us really understand the intricate details of bill that will radically change the way we do health care in our country?
The problem is that most of us don't have the time or energy to understand it. We only want to know if it is good or bad. When often the truth is somewhere in between. All we want to know is do we agree or disagree. I think there is a whole space in between. There is a land of information that we are missing because we are too busy yelling at one another. I know that I sometimes fall into this trap. I pray that I can have the patience and humility to remember to listen and try and understand.
I feel this way about worship. It seems that we are trying to pigeon hole people into two camps. On the one side we have "contemporary" on the other we have "traditional". I am neither of these camps. Rather I am for worshipping Jesus Christ. For Lutherans (of which I am) this takes two specific forms. Word (hearing God's love and forgiveness for us) and Sacrament (God being present with us in concrete forms). This is worship it is what is Biblical and historical. Around this I don't care all that much about the window dressing. Except that the window dressings serves the Word and sacrament. (Also, like most people I have likes and dislikes. But this is not about worship it is about my preferences) You see this is the discussion I want to have. What is God doing to us in worship? Not, what I am getting out of it? The same could be said for health care. I don't want to hear about Canada, England, or what you dislike about Obama. I want to hear people with solutions. I want to know how we are going to keep my family from going bankrupt as we try and pay our medical bills? How are we going to keep the church from going bankrupt from paying insurance for pastors?
You see it is not about sides it is about what serves people best. It is not about what side of the worship debate are you on. It is about how the people of God are going to hear the Gospel. It is not about what political side of the spectrum you sit, it is about what is the best health care system for our children. Of course, in reality we love sides, and we love to take them up. This is why we need Jesus. We need Jesus to free us from ourselves. We need Jesus to help us see our neighbors need, and free us from our self love, our hatred, and our love for picking sides.