Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Tricky conversations about love and in love.

Lectionary Passages for May 4. Acts 2:14a, 36-41, Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19, 1Peter1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35

One of the reasons I reflect on the lectionary scriptures each week is to help me to think about life. I want preaching in the church to be relevant to what is going on in the various communities I am part of and hear about every day. Whether I am the preacher or a listener, thinking about the scriptures in my current context is helpful!

Last week and tonight, a small group (made up of representation from various branches/committees as well as anyone else who was interested to come) gathers to talk about issues of sexuality and the church. The discussion is based on the "Being a Faithful Church 5" document which can be found on the Mennonite Church Canada website.

A few things have captured my interest. Firstly, both the paper and our conversations are somewhat lacking in focus, simply because the topic is so broad and we all are touched by the issues, sometimes painfully. This is a huge conversation! Secondly, one bit that rises to the surface of the discussion is our constant need to respect each other so that real connections are possible. We are speaking about things that are intimate and deeply part of our relationships, identity, and faith. These conversations have been good so far, good practice for us as we express beliefs, thoughts and feelings, and struggle with fears that arise when we are different. How we treat each other as we disagree is absolutely crucial!

1 Peter calls us to holy living, and affirms that God is the one who judges all people impartially. In light of divergent views on issues, the reminder that God is the judge is helpful. Our job is to discuss, discern, and do our best, but ultimately God will judge us based on our deeds (verse 17). That is certainly a call to an attitude of humility. Peter goes on to say we are to love one another deeply from the heart. It is good to remember this love is based on a mutual striving to obey God. The following verse asks us to put away malice, slander, envy, and insincerity. We are asked to put away aspects of behaviour and attitude that hurt others. A good thing to remember both as we engage in touchy discussions and as we speak about them to others after the fact.

In Acts, it is again Peter who urges the faithful (in this case a wide diversity of Jews he describes as being from all nations 2:5) to respond to God with repentance. Then they are to engage in teaching and fellowship, eating and sharing together and praying.  They are to live together in peace, engaging each other hospitably, and striving to be true to God.

It's easy to have peace in small homogeneous groups, but the church is never this way, and it shouldn't be this way! Somehow the church is called to be a hospitable place in spite of all of us with our divergent views and differing ideas. We should always be welcoming new people among us. And that means we will be having people at all stages of their faith life, people of varying backgrounds, etc...joining us and continually "upsetting our apple cart." That is great, at least in theory. In practice, we have to keep working on respecting, loving, and hearing each other. Our core is the unity that Christ gives us, we strive to follow his example and teachings.

We are not without guidance in how to get along. The scriptures, like those we read this week, continually urge us to love each other. Working that out when there are differing views and touchy issues is exactly what the church is called to do! While discussing sexuality and all the surrounding issues is not easy, it has, so far, been good practice at having important conversations in a good way! With God's help, we pray that it continues to be so!

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