A Sacred Place of Listening

  This is it!

This is what the Church needs to be! This is it!

 

Those are the words that circled through my thoughts as I sat in an informational meeting on Sunday. We were talking about the vision for a gathering called Living in the Tension. These groups were started by the Marin Foundation as places to have respectful dialogue about faith and sexuality. Living in the Tension's mission is

 

“That non-Christian LGBTs, gay Christians, celibates, ex-gays, liberal and conservative straight Christians and straight non-Christians all willfully enter into a place of constructive tension, intentionally forming a community that peacefully and productively takes on the most divisive topics within the culture war that is faith and sexuality.”

 

That is quite the mission.

 

As I sat in the meeting and heard people’s stories, I began to dream. Not just about what a Living in the Tension group could be, but about what the Church could be.

 

What if the Church became a place of healthy and respectful dialogue? Not just about issues of sexuality, but about culture and politics and life?

 

As a society, we’ve completely lost our ability to disagree respectfully. We talk liberally about our point of view without taking the time to listen to the views of others. We say that we understand how others might believe differently, yet secretly believe we are just a little more right than everyone else. We place our identity into our own worldviews and theologies in such a way that when someone disagrees with what we think, we take it as a personal affront and defend ourselves accordingly.

 

What if the Church did what we could to put a stop to all this madness instead of contributing to it?

 

What if the Church began to model true unity? A togetherness based on love, not uniformity?

 

It would not be easy. It will have to start with an acknowledgement.

 

All of us who profess our faith in Christ need to stand up and acknowledge that there is tension. That the Bible does not tell us exactly what to do in every situation, and that figuring out how to interpret it can be difficult.

 

We need to admit a few things:

 

It is possible to believe the Bible is the authentic and authoritative Word of God but disagree on our theology.

 

It is possible to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this earth, modeled a perfect life, died for our sins, and rose victorious from the grave, but disagree on our politics.

 

It is possible to believe that the greatest commandment is to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, but disagree on our moral standards.

 

Can we admit to those tensions and know that our faith is still secure and our God is still on His throne?

 

I am dreaming today about that possibility.

 

Because in His final days on earth, this was Jesus’ prayer for us: that we would be one as He and the Father are One. Because, He prayed, through unity in the Church, the world would believe that He was sent by God and that they were loved by Him.

 

What if the Church made intentional steps in that direction?

 

Imagine egalitarians and complementarians sitting across a table from one another and listening to each other’s stories without judgment. Imagine liberals and conservatives talking about how they came to their conclusions without trying to convince the other to change his or her views. Imagine homosexuals and heterosexuals who believe differently about what ethical sexuality looks like looking each other in the eyes with respect. Imagine racial majorities and minorities who have different ideas about privilege telling each other that they are loved and valued.

 

In this polarized world, think of the impact that could be made by creating a sacred place of listening.

 

Imagine.

 

This is my prayer for the Bride of Christ.

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Wonder: Stars and Angels

I have known Melissa for a long time. FYI- watch out if you ever play the game Apples to Apples with her; she's a wizard at word association and will beat you. I think you'll see that skill used with the parallels she draws in her post today.

 

"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." ~1 Corinthians 12:24b-26

 

Different families have different traditions. When it comes to Christmas, people tend to hold fast and strong to theirs. Take Christmas trees for example. While some find comfort in assembling the same old tannenbaum year after year, others seek the thrill of the annual pilgrimage to the best parking-lot-turned-makeshift-forest around. There, they weave in and out among freshly hewn firs, branches brushing softly against coat and glove, needles crunching sweetly underfoot, hunting down the perfect prize to bring home for the holidays.

 

Whether manufactured by God or man, once the tree is in place, the trimming may begin. Partiality to decorations is just as varied, if not more, than that of the actual tree. Colored lights, white lights, tinsel, garland, homemade ornaments, store-bought baubles, etc….the options are endless. However, once you’ve strung your lights and hung your last hook, then comes the pièce de résistance: the tree topper.

 

Traditionally, there are two types of toppers: angels and stars—fitting, since God crowned the sky with both to herald the coming of the King of Kings, Emmanuel, God with us. While angels appeared several times in the retelling of Christ’s birth, announcing the message and intentions of God, it was a silent star that shone brightly from on high guiding followers to the baby Jesus below.

 

There may no longer be a babe or manger to find, but God sends us heralds today all the same; stars and angels of a different sort who proclaim our Lord’s presence and direct us toward Him. They walk among us and sit beside us; illuminating lives with the light of Christ, echoing His truth in word and deed. Some verbalize the message of the Gospel, while others radiate the love of Christ through their actions. They speak to us, minister to us. God willing, they might even be us.

 

Traditions, opinions, and demeanors will always vary. While some would call those differences the bane of the church, I name them the beauty and the blessing of the body of Christ. They are what allow us to minister to each other, the joints at which we fit together, one in Him.

 

We are the members of the body of Christ.

We are His heralds.

We are His.

 


About Today's Guest Blogger: Melissa of Ink in Pink

Melissa is the voice of InkinPink.com. Before moving to Nashville, Tennessee, Melissa earned her dual bachelor's degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Journalism and Communication Arts. Since then, she has proofed, edited, and/or written dozens of books, articles, Web sites, grants, newsletters, and more in non-profit and corporate sectors. She specializes in writing, proofing, and editing relationship-building content for use in print and electronic marketing and fund raising. Ink in Pink started as “a site devoted to writing samples and general editorial commentary.” Over time, however, it has morphed more and more into a place for her to share whatever lessons she is learning. She writes about what and how God is teaching her. She doesn't know if her writing will change the world, but she does know that it changes her.

 

Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.

His Blood Shed for Us

I repeated the words over and over and over. His blood shed for you… His blood shed for you… His blood shed for you. The Lord’s Supper, Communion, the Eucharist: no matter how we title the experience, it is a holy gift of stillness. A manifestation of grace that helps us slow down and remember.

Communion is a gift to those who receive it. It was also a gift to me, when I had the privilege to serve it.

I watched people leave their seats and come down the aisle in streams. One by one I looked into their eyes and spoke the reminder that this cup was not ordinary. That it was a memorial to the sacrifice that changed this world forever.

With each set of eyes, the words I spoke sunk deeper into my heart. For you… for you… for you… for all of us.

Humanity is bound together by our common need for forgiveness.

To an alcoholic… His blood shed for you. To a tired mother… His blood shed for you. To a college graduate still looking for a job… His blood shed for you. To an unfaithful spouse… His blood shed for you. To a popular high school student… His blood shed for you. To a quiet wallflower… His blood shed for you. To a charismatic leader… His blood shed for you. To a person living in poverty… His blood shed for you. To a prosperous suburbanite… His blood shed for you.

The Lord’s Supper unifies us. All of us with our eyes focused not on our differences but on Christ. We humble ourselves as we receive His grace and in that moment, we become one.

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

In the Eucharist, we remember the new covenant written in Christ’s blood. The promise spoken of hundreds of years before Christ came.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” - Jeremiah 31:33-34

God has made a commitment to us, written in the blood of Christ. The promise that we are His people. That none of us are out of the reach of His forgiveness. That all of us have the ability to know the Lord.

No matter who we are, no matter the choices we have made, no matter the situation we are living in, Christ’s blood was shed for us.  What an honor to pause, remember, and celebrate that gift.

Do you participate in communion? What about the experience connects you with Christ’s sacrifice?

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