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Posts Tagged ‘mission’

The church does not belong to us. It belongs to Christ.

Our two lessons this morning remind us of some critical shifts in the early days of Christianity. At first, Christians were primarily Jews who saw Jesus as a Messianic figure. They worshiped in the synagogues, followed Hebrew dietary laws, and celebrated the Jewish feasts. When Jews were persecuted, Christians were, too.

Then along comes Paul.

Paul first appears as Saul, a fierce persecutor of these followers of Jesus. He oversees the public lynching of Stephen, he of strong leonine faith, who is often called the first Christian martyr. When Saul is on the way to do more of the same in Damascus, he has an otherworldly conversion experience, a blinding encounter with Jesus himself. And in that moment, Saul becomes Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul’s new mission is one of preaching. He takes that same fierceness with him as he brings the message of Jesus far beyond the Jewish community. The letters attributed to him make up the bulk of the New Testament, and his writings are critical in establishing Christianity as its own faith, distinct from Judaism, one in which people of different tribes were meant to be together in community.

The church does not belong to us. It belongs to Christ.

Paul’s mission pointed back to Jesus’ own ministry, calling attention to the fact that his own message was quite broad. In Jesus’ first sermon in Nazareth, as he reads Isaiah’s words about God’s liberating power, the two stories of the Hebrew Bible he uses to illustrate his point are both ones in which prophets are sent to Gentiles, not Israelites. And Jesus regularly violated strict Sabbath observance in order to make a larger point about God’s limitless power.

With God’s urging, Paul took these moments and ran with them. The gospel, with Paul as its instrument, was not meant to divide, but to unite – to heal, to reconcile, to reach far beyond boundaries.

The church does not belong to us. It belongs to Christ.

Our lesson this morning finds Paul on the road again, heading from Athens and arriving in Corinth, about fifty miles to the west. The Romans had rebuilt Corinth as a major trading hub where Romans, Jews, and Greeks all mixed together. After he arrives, Paul connects with Aquila and Priscilla, Jews who had been kicked out of Rome. The three find common ground over their shared trade of tent-making. And Paul gets a place to stay while he puts his powers of persuasion to work in the synagogue, bringing the message of Christ.

Paul’s efforts there are critical in establishing the Church in Corinth. Though Paul eventually left to continue his ministry elsewhere, his authority loomed large enough in the community that they still regularly sought his wisdom. And he thinks of enough of them to reply in depth to the questions and struggles of faith that they have.

Much of Paul’s letters to the Corinth address the divisions that mark them – and there were plenty, apparently. There were conflicts over whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols. There were conflicts over what role the Lord’s Supper was to have in their gatherings. There were conflicts that arose because of the cultural stew that the city of Corinth reflected, and Paul tackles them head on, over and over again.

The second part of our lesson highlights one of these divisive moments. Chloe, a leader in the Corinthian church, has sent word to Paul that factions are forming. Paul blasts them for these arguments. It is not, he says, about whether you “belong to Paul” or “Cephas” or “Apollos”. Christ, he says, is not divided. And if Christ is not divided, Christ’s church should not be, either. Paul reminds them that it is Christ who was crucified, not Paul. It was in the name of Christ that they were baptized.

He has this stumbling little tangent, too, which I love – a reminder that Paul didn’t really have the time or the resources for editing. He writes: “I only baptized Crispus and Gaius. And no one else. Except for Stephanas. And his household. Actually, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else. We did do the nose. And the hat. But that’s not the point! You were baptized into Christ, and into the message of the cross and its power. That should be what unites you!”

And Paul’s message was so effective that the church was never divided again.

If anything, the church seems to be marked by division: division between Orthodox and Catholic, division between Catholic and Protestant, division between Presbyterian and Lutheran, division between evangelical and traditional, division between conservative and progressive…So let us be absolutely crystal clear about this: the church does not belong to us. It belongs to Christ!

This is the message that ought to ring home for us today – not just today, but especially today. Later on in the service, we will baptize little Norah, and we will welcome her parents, Adam and Victoria, into membership, as we also officially welcome the Kim family into the life of Oglethorpe Presbyterian. Each and every time we baptize and welcome members, we should be reminded of this fact: the church does not belong to us. It belongs to Christ. And it is in Christ that we should find our life, our meaning, our purpose.

Even the word “church” ought to remind us of this focus. “Church” is an old, old English word that comes from Greek by way of German. And in Greek, it owes its root to the word Kyrios – that is the Lord, or Christ himself.

The problem comes when we confuse life in a church with life in the church, with life in Christ. We can easily get caught up in institutional survival, or denominational division, or even political disagreement, such that we fail to recognize what our calling actually is.

This is the challenge that confronts us every time we talk about church membership. If we fail to make it clear, we can be led to believe that membership means some kind of exclusive access to God that sets us apart from the world. And this is what leads into division, reinforcing the very separation and conflict that Paul was trying to discourage.

What membership should mean is this: it is a public commitment to be part of a community that is in an ongoing relationship with Jesus. And in that relationship, we try to reflect that the character of Jesus we meet out into the world.

I am not saying that there is nothing at stake in church membership. Quite the opposite: church membership is one clear way to demonstrate that we believe in something larger than ourselves, and that we are willing to be part of a shared vision, one we shape just as it shapes us.

And yet, joining Oglethorpe Presbyterian does not mean cutting yourself off from the world. We do not have some kind of inner road to truth that other congregations or denominations or religions lack. We are, simply put, a community of people doing our best to be part of what it is that God desires in this little corner of God’s amazing world. And this work does not end when we leave the property; in fact, it is just beginning, spreading out through all space and time!

Wherever we go, our goal should be to create little glimpses of grace – moments that point not to ourselves, or to Brookhaven, or to Oglethorpe, or to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or to Paul or Cephas or Apollos. They should, instead, be windows onto to the God whom we are coming to know more in Jesus each and every day!

Immediately following worship today, our Mission leadership is going to be hosting a Town Hall forum on some of the opportunities we believe God has led us to prioritize, ways of being this church that belongs to Jesus far beyond the walls of our buildings and the lines of our property. Some of these ministries have a long history here, and some are brand new. And each of them, we believe, are visible reminders of God at work in this broken and beloved world.

This is the church into which we are baptized – a church that does not exist for its own sake, but for the sake of the gospel and its healing, reconciling power, with its words of compassion, words of peace for us, and for all. May we have the wisdom and the faith to embrace its claim upon us!

Amen.

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What do we do with the overflow?

This summer we have been looking at Psalm 23, a study we will be wrapping up in the next few weeks. We have already shifted from being sheep under the care of Yahweh the shepherd to being guests in the home of Yahweh the host. We have been welcomed with a feast spread before us, our heads have been anointed with oil, and we have been elevated into places of honor. And now, our cups overflow with more than enough.

In part, today we receive a lesson in hospitality. And that theme of hospitality is one that runs throughout Scripture. When we read lessons about welcoming the stranger or feeding the hungry, we are reminded that the cultures and times of the Bible are very different from our own. Hospitality plays a bigger role in much of the world than it seems to in our own. And those of you who have been fortunate enough to travel to the two-thirds world probably have some sense of what I’m talking about.

My own experience in that regard first came as a teenager. The youth of First Presbyterian traveled to the Dominican Republic to work along side a youth group there. We painted churches and health clinics, we dug cisterns, we played basketball and ran along the beach together. One night, after a long day of work at a Presbyterian camp deep in the countryside, we piled into our vans and drove out even further into the heart of the D.R. The pavement eventually gave way to dirt, and the dirt gave way to mud. Soon, the deep ruts in the road became impassible. We walked the last little way up a hill to a simple, candlelit village church. After worshiping together, the villagers invited us to sit out under the trees, where they brought huge plates of food to us.

I was embarrassed. We were wealthy American teenagers, and these dirt poor villagers had prepared a feast for us. I didn’t want to eat, as it felt like I was taking food out of the mouths of those who needed it most. But my new Dominican friends encouraged me, leading by example. What I learned was that to turn the plates away would be an insult to village hospitality. I could best show my gratitude by being a good guest, by enjoying the meal and showing my appreciation for my hosts.

That story in my own life is what comes to mind when I read the lesson of Elijah and the widow. And the message at its heart is the one that echoes forth from Psalm 23: God gives us more than enough; indeed, more than we deserve.

Elijah is sent north, out of the land of Israel, beyond the Galilee, into Sidon, a Gentile region. In terms of modern day geography, that would be along the coast of southern Lebanon. And there, in the midst of a region-wide drought, he meets a starving widow. He pleads with her to bring him a little bread to eat, and we learn how truly horrible her situation is. She had only come out of her home to gather enough sticks to build a fire. Once that’s done, she’ll use up the rest of what she has so that she and her son can eat their final meal, and then die of starvation. And that’s when Elijah asks the unthinkable: “Give me that bread instead. And when you do, then you will never run out of food to eat until the drought ends and rain quenches the earth again.”

I don’t know what the unnamed widow must have been thinking, but she does exactly as Elijah says. Maybe she figured that she had nothing left to lose, so why not take a chance…or perhaps she was so low on hope that she really didn’t care any more…or maybe she actually did take Elijah at his word.

There’s actually a clue in the story itself as to why she agreed so easily. When Elijah first asks her for that bread, her response is, “As surely as Yahweh your God lives.” In other words, she recognized him as a worshiper of Yahweh, the God of the Israelites. The Israelites who first read this story would have been shocked to hear that this woman, an outsider, a Gentile, someone not even worthy of being named, had more faith in God than most of them did. She may have been so far beyond desperate as to be resigned to her fate; and yet, she somehow still had more faith than many of the so-called faithful. Her faith leads to a surplus, a jar that never empties, a jug that never finishes, a cup that runs over.

The lesson is clear: trust in the Lord, and we will have enough, in fact, more than enough.

And yet, I want to be sure we are grasping that lesson in its broader meaning. The trick is that we can get so caught up in the details of the story that we begin to think that this is all there is. Very quickly, this lesson about God’s provision can become one about God’s material provision. But the message to the faithful is never that narrow. It’s like when we begin to think that “stewardship” is just a way for the church to talk about “money” without using the “m-word”. If that happens, then we have fallen into the trap of narrowing our focus.

This lesson, the lesson of Elijah and the Gentile widow, the lesson of Psalm 23, is the lesson of abundance. God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s blessings are extravagant! They are like an overflowing cup, reminders that there is more than enough to go around. And yet, if we get too caught up in the idea of material blessings alone, we miss the true grace and gift for us today.

Every one of us here has something through which we struggle. None of us has a perfect life; if we do, then we don’t really need to be here, do we? The gift in those struggles, however faint it may feel at the time, is that we do not travel through them alone. When Paul describes the church as the body of Christ, he goes on to say, “When one part of the body suffers, all suffer with it.” When we lift up our prayers as a community of faith, when we honestly share our challenges with one another, we are reminded that we are knit together in community, in love, in support and caring. We are not alone.

And at the same time, each one of us has something for which we are thankful. There are times when those things might seem faint, but they are there nonetheless. We could very well be grateful for material blessings, a wealth of goods, a comfortable way of life. But wealth comes in many forms. It could also be the wealth of relationships, the blessings of health. Maybe you have free time on your hands, or unique skills and knowledge that are in short supply. You sing, you play an instrument, you pray, you teach, you listen, you love…

In short, the question before each of us today is this: where is your wealth? What is your cup that runs over? Where in your life are you most grateful right now? Where do you see the outrageous, overflowing blessings of God? Where is it that you can most clearly see God’s abundance in your life, your reason to rejoice and give thanks?

I don’t know how you might answer that question, but I know that each of you has an answer. Deep down, we know where our gratitude lies. And that’s the beginning of our prayer today, of our thanksgiving and celebration.

But wait: there’s more.

We are grateful people. What do we do with that gratitude? When we experience the overflowing of God’s amazing gifts, what do we do with what’s left over?

In our brief lesson from Matthew this morning, Jesus reminds us of the purpose of hospitality. When we share even a simple cup of cold water with the children of God, we are quenching God’s own thirst for compassion and mercy. When we share what we have, we welcome Christ himself into our midst. When we share the blessings that overflow in our lives, we allow those blessings to flow through us, out into the world that suffers from drought, as they wait for the rain to fall.

What would that look like? What does it look like to you to share your gratitude with a world in need? If relationships are your blessing, what would it mean to share them with the lonely? If you have time, where could you spend some that would make the world a better place? Could you listen to those who need to be heard? Could you teach those who hunger to learn? Could you sing out praise to the God who first gave you voice? Could you care for those who feel like the world couldn’t care less about them?

Does your cup run over? Where will the overflow go: to satisfy thirst, or will it go to waste?

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I have been spending the better part of two weeks transferring all of my CDs to iTunes. It has been a fun trip down memory lane, running into music that we haven’t heard for several years. And yet, it’s amazing how quickly you can get bogged down in the minutiae of such a project: iTunes doesn’t have the right cover art for the album; some of the song titles are misspelled; the rules of capitalization seem to have gone out the window.

It is incredible how much time we can put into frivolous, unimportant things: alphabetizing the spice rack; arranging the closet according to Roy G. Biv; spackling over that hole in the kitchen wall you made with your unicycle. In my lifetime, we’ve taken audio from vinyl to cassette to CD to mp3 and back to vinyl, kind of. My dad owned and used a reel-to-reel tape machine, and I remember when we thought, for a few minutes back in the mid-90s, that Digital Audio Tape was going to be the future. Super8, BetaMax, VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray…it most certainly won’t be long before iTunes is tossed out on its ear, and we will start the whole process of transfer all over again. When the world around can be a place that demands such serious attention, how can we focus on such pointless activities?

Those of you who know me well know that I’m probably not going to be arguing against trivia this morning, or in favor of a life that is filled with nothing but the important stuff. There is a place in our lives for pleasure. And the truth is that when we fill our lives to overflowing, we usually end up with self-importance rather than real importance. And the temptation is to make our lives so full that they become relatively useless. But the point is this: if we are praying for God’s will to be done on earth like it is in heaven, why do we not do more to be part of that transformation? How can we jibe this desire to be God’s instruments with our deeply troubled we can be over whether our Urban Dance Squad CD is sampled at 128 or 192 kbps?

It has taken us three weeks now to unpack this one phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And as we’ve looked at this phrase, the one thing that remains consistent throughout is that earth most certainly does not look like heaven. We never have to look far to recognize that the created order often bears little resemblance to what we understand God’s desires to be.

Our New Testament lesson is a stark reminder of that fact. John the Baptist, God’s own prophet, is snuffed out in the blink of an eye. The good guy loses his head; the bad guys win; and the king stays in power, going on to rule another day – paranoid, yes, but still in charge.

Centuries have passed, and yet, it often seems that nothing has changed. There is little justice or accountability in society. Integrity is viewed as a quaint ideal rather than a character trait. And illness, not healing, holds our bodies captive. The desire of this phrase, that God’s will be done, is genuine and necessary. But how do we make it reality?

After all, what is heaven? In most languages, Biblical and otherwise, the word for “heaven” is the same as the word for “sky” or “skies”. The same is true in English, actually, as “heaven” comes to us via the old English-Germanic route. So to speak of this literally, heaven is the sky – or the skies.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that God isn’t in the sky – at least, not in that way. We aren’t worried that a 747 will burst through a cloudbank and go crashing into the pearly gates. We don’t lose sleep over a satellite colliding with the throne of God and ruining the upholstery. When Scripture was written, however, we knew nothing about what lay beyond our vision above. We could see the sky, but we could not touch it. But this is no longer true.

So what is heaven, then? Is it ultimately about place at all? Or does it describe a reality that, no matter how much knowledge we have, always lies just beyond our reach?

There’s a hint in our lesson from the prophet Amos. In it, God holds a plumb line against a wall. The image is straightforward enough: the plumb line is in God’s hands, and the righteousness of ancient Israel is measured against it. In this case, the nation doesn’t make the cut, and Amos the prophet gets the lucky job of breaking the news to the king. It makes you wonder if his head will end up on a platter.

I’m reminded of the first church I worked in after seminary. I was a youth pastor, and we took a youth mission trip down to Mexico. We spent a week in one of the coloñias of Reynosa, the haphazard shanty towns that have sprung up across the border filled with folks hoping for a better life, whether that means coming across the border or getting a job in one of the American factories on the Mexican side of the wall. This one was built on the side of a garbage dump, and the children could often be found scrounging through the burning piles of refuse to find whatever little treasures they could.

Our job, partnering with a Methodist church there, was to build a simple wood frame eight-by-eight house to house a family of four. We were, all of us, untrained, but they had given us an easy step-by-step guide to build. On the third day, one of the certified builders came to check on us. His quick assessment was painful: we needed to start over. The ground wasn’t level where we were building, our frame wasn’t squared up, and we had decided that “close” was good enough. What we didn’t realize is that any small mistake in the foundation would be magnified by the time we got to the roof, making the whole structure unstable. Our orders were clear: take it apart and start all over.

How is our life’s foundation? Have we measured ourselves against God’s desires? Have we decided that “close enough” is good enough?

There’s an old word, “canon”, spelled like the camera company, which means “measuring rod” or “standard”. It goes back to the Hebrew for “reed” and the Arabic for “law”. The only time you hear that word these days, usually, is when referring to Scripture. The books of the Bible are the Biblical canon. And the implication is fairly clear: they provide the measuring line, the reed, the standard by which we are measured.

As we build our lives, or perhaps as we rebuild them after the roof has wobbled and caved in, we want to be sure that we begin with a foundation that measures up. And the most certain way to do is prayer. Will we mess up? Absolutely. We’ll bend nails and hit thumbs; our 90 degree angles will be 89.9. And even if we build it perfectly, the whole structure will be exposed to the elements that will gradually wear away at it. After all, we are far from perfect.

And so, the posture of prayer we take makes all the difference. When we pray, and specifically, when we pray to God, “your will be done”, it’s not ultimately about forcing God’s hand, or saying, “OK, God, now is the time for you to act.” Instead, it’s about aligning ourselves with God’s desires. It’s about opening ourselves up to see and know what it is that God hopes for this world. The parables of Christ, the example of his life, ministry, death, and resurrection, all of them point to heaven, to the reality that lies just beyond our grasp. And in that reality, the hungry are fed, the sick are healed, the prisoners are set free, and the whole earth sings to the glory of God.

Making the world a perfect place is an impossible task. But what is possible, and more importantly, what is faithful, is praying that we would be God’s vessels of that feeding, that healing, that freedom, that whole-throated song of praise.

Amen.

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This just came into my inbox today. If you have the chance and inclination to visit with our amazing Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese brothers and sisters, I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity. The trip will be November 5-19, 2010, and is organized by the Presbyterian Outreach Foundation. You can find more details about Outreach trips in general here and this trip in particular here.

In 2001, I was lucky enough to visit Iraq and to spend some time with each of our five Presbyterian churches there. Elizabeth and I kept a journal of our time there, and you can see reflections and photos online here. We also wrote a reflection about our time there which I have re-posted on my blog here (just ignore the political references that make the reflection a bit dated. You may have heard that things have changed in Iraq since 2001. It has been on the news some).

And in 2002, we were fortunate to visit Syria and Lebanon and with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters there. The journal from that trip can be found here.

But don’t take my word for it. Take Philip’s advice to Nathanael. “Come and see” for yourself.

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I’ve been taking a break from blogging my sermon drafts this summer (that’s what they are – I’ve shifted to outline preaching, which means the “final” draft is what comes out of my mouth. We post those on the church website and have been podcasting for a couple of months now). My preaching this summer is focusing more on Bible Study and less on exposition. We’ve having less lecture and more conversation as a result.

Anyway, our Session was very busy on Sunday, beginning to implement a number of things that have been in the work for some time. I’ll be posting some of them here in the coming days.

First is a revamped Vision and Mission Statement. Enjoy!

Vision
Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church is an inclusive community of faith that uses our gifts and resources to continue the earthly ministry of Jesus. We exist as a church not merely for ourselves – the broader community is our congregation.

Mission
We engage all the faithful in the ministry of the Church.
Our witness is intergenerational. We value theological and political diversity and are building a congregation where all can find their voice and know their purpose in God’s ministry. We root ourselves in Presbyterian traditions while remaining open to the work of the Spirit as it re-creates us for today’s ministries. As a community that puts faith in motion, we value creativity and innovation as hallmarks of the Spirit at work in the world.

Our ministries are a response to God’s grace already at work in our lives. And so we exist for the community around us, which includes our members. Our building is at the center of our ministry, not the extent of it. Our property exists to house our worship, to facilitate our ministries, and to equip the larger community’s engagement in God’s mission. As a people of faith in motion, we gather together so that the Spirit might shape and move us so that our lives are empowered to serve God by serving others.

Ours is a story that belongs to God. As we celebrate our sixtieth anniversary, we look forward in hope to the unfolding of that story and the growth it will bring in the years to come.

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For the past few days, I have been at the Presbyterian Global Fellowship conference in Long Beach, California. PGF is an organization which exists to “to transform mainline congregations into missional communities following Jesus Christ”. It tends toward the conservative, especially on hot-button denominational issues such as ordination of homosexuals. Many are concerned about the recent actions of the General Assembly to change the Book of Order for full inclusion, seeing it as a change from traditional Presbyterian standards.

I need to say up front that I am as comfortable – and as uncomfortable – among this group as I am among the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a notably liberal group within the denomination. I take Stanley Hauerwas’ description of the “resident alien” not only as a personal feeling of exile within the wider society, but also many times within the church itself. I worship as well in an emergent church as I do in Orthodox liturgy. I’m never quite at home in any context.

There is the threat, after this summer’s General Assembly, that there would be a split within the denomination. However, I am encouraged that much of the conversation among the leadership here at PGF is about how to live into that tension and division within the denomination, rather than finding a “way out.”

One proposal is to re-shape the denomination with non-geographic governing bodies that reflect the divisions over key issues, and would still maintain a wider unity of the denomination. I think there is great wisdom here, and I do hope that it gets some traction. I think it is far more fruitful to the health and faithfulness of the church and its witness than any kind of split we might find. Speaking very broadly, and from my point of view, we need the evangelical passion within the denomination for its insistence on the uniqueness of the gospel and of Jesus Christ. We also need the progressives’ zeal for justice and fairness. There are places where the two find common ground, but they are seemingly rare. “Mission”, in conservative circles, most often means “conversion.” “Mission”, in liberal circles, most often means “compassion.” For me, at least, the division is a false one. Thus the broader denominational tension is a healthy one.

As soon as I say this, though, I know that any such proposal will cause a personal crisis for me. If we are divided along these traditional lines, I’m not sure which way I will fall. If I could do “both/and”, then I’m probably good. But if it’s “either/or”, I remain in a more permanent exile.

And here comes the flaw that I see in the conversation here at PGF: there is an assumption that we are all systematic theologians, that there is no intellectual gap between our assumptions about God and God’s character and the positions we take on the positions of the day. In other words, a conservative theology leads to a conservative worldview; a liberal theology leads to a liberal worldview. I do not think that this is necessarily so, and I do think that there are many of us who cross lines quite fluidly. Two more academic illustrations of my point:

  • In South African theologian John de Gruchy’s book on art in liturgy, he examines the view that John Calvin had about the use of iconography by the church. Calvin saw icons in the light of his strong stand against idolatry and his radical focus on God, and thus opposed the use of religious icons. But what if, de Gruchy wonders, Calvin saw icons in the light of his strong stand on God’s accommodation toward humanity (e.g. incarnation, human language, etc.)? In other words, what if icons were a part of the way that God chooses human ways to communicate heavenly ideas? As systematic and logical and legally minded as Calvin was, even he had tension in his interpretive, intellectual lenses.
  • Richard Hays of Duke Divinity School has written profoundly on the “What Would Jesus Do” ideal in his book The Moral Vision of the New Testament. In it, before he digs into the controversial issues of the day, he sets up his hermeneutical/interpretational lenses from the New Testament. He sees three important ones: cross, community, and new creation. When he looks at the issue of sexuality, for example, he is ultimately convinced by the need for the church to present a different way of being as new creation as a call to traditional standards of sexual behavior. But what if he were to choose another lens, namely community, to be primary? What if it were Christ’s radical call for inclusion and expansion of who is “in” on this particular issue? Would this cause him to look at this issue differently?

I am not a systematic theologian. My theology is strongly evangelical. But the conclusions it leads me to most often (not always) look a lot more like those of so-called liberals. Perhaps I am confused. I am definitely post-modern. But here’s what I’m convinced of theologically: none of the divisions of the church have a monopoly on truth. The PC(USA) cannot be our ultimate eschatology. I myself do not claim to have any authority to speak on “truth”. And, most importantly, I know that living in the tension of friendships with different parts of the Body of Christ has been the most powerful way for me to continue to seek that truth. Dividing in these ways would simply reinforce the fact that we self-ghettoize along theological lines, rarely seeking friendship and/or conversation with those with whom we disagree.

Whatever the future of the denomination might be, my hope is that there would be an intentional way to encourage – and, perhaps, even force – us to seek relationships across traditional boundaries. That, to my mind, would be the best way to benefit from the challenging heart the gospel offers us.

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