Monday, May 17, 2010

From weeping to rejoicing

Jesus weeps.

Read or listen to the news and the stories about churches that squabble and splinter over their differences.

In our own Episcopal Church, we’ve divided over prayer book revision, over women in ordained ministry, over gay bishops.

Yes, Jesus weeps

And he also prays, as in John’s gospel account of our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer.

He’s facing his passion and death, and he prays with and for his followers that day in Jerusalem, and in all times and places,

He prays that we’ll be one just as he and his father are one in love for one another. Theirs is a relationship of mutual love.

He says that when his followers love one another, we will be united to God the Father and the Son and with one another.

And love—that’s the only important thing—is shown by his suffering, death, and resurrection for the salvation of all, even for those who persecute and crucify him.

Father may they be one as you and I are one.

Sadly, though, too many Christians today, including in our own denomination, are more interested in being right on issues than right in our relationship with God and our fellow Christians through love.

Jesus weeps not because we have differences; we’re human, and we’ll always disagree. But he weeps because we let differences amputate his earthly Body, the church.

Today, we dismember Christ’s body over gay bishops, but tomorrow it will be something else unless we find another way to be the church.

We can. We must. We are at Christ Episcopal Church.

A few Saturdays ago, more than 60 people, mostly Episcopalians, including 15 from Christ Church, spent the day with Dr. Peter Browning of Drury University. Dr. Browning is professor of religion and ethics there.

Dr. Browning led a workshop on homosexuality and the church, and he called it a “collaborative” approach.

We gathered in the parish hall at round tables--people with different views on the subject and different experiences. And we did something different. We didn’t debate or dispute.

No, we listened to Dr. Browning deal thoroughly and objectively with the arguments on homosexuality and the church, pro and con.

He looked at the Biblical passages often cited in the debate, along with scientific data and studies. We heard gay and straight people, in video testimonials, describe their experiences of being Christian.

And we talked—and listened—at our tables. Ours was a conversation. We acknowledged differences, sought understanding, and looked for what unites us—the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—and ways we could work together for his kingdom of love.

We were collaborating.

This workshop was not about changing minds, but changing hearts—not about right and wrong, but about right relationships that were grounded in active, self-giving love for all people.

And for those five hours in the parish hall, we were the answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity within his earthly body.

The important thing is not being right in our opinions, or theology, or interpretation of the Bible, but right in our love of God and love for one another.

And when we are right about the right thing, Jesus rejoices.

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