Spiritually Tongue-Tied

My dear Reader, thank you for hanging in with me while I figure out my new schedule.  I’ve now had every class at least once and have started both of my jobs; it will take another week or so for things to truly settle into a rhythm, but we’re getting there.  For now, look for an update every other week (sorry, I can’t yet guarantee which day.  Consider it a surprise…coming from a person who hates surprises.  Can’t have everything, I guess).

I can tell that I’m finding at least some footing because I’ve reverted to my practice of calling wherever I sleep “home”—I no longer say “I’m going back to the house” but “I’m headed home after work.”  This is a lot weirder to me considering I very strongly understand “home” to be back in the Land of Pilgrims—but one identity crisis at a time.

My schedule is a huge part of the reason I’ve been posting erratically and it’s a very easy thing to blame, but a smaller and very important part is that I haven’t really had anything to say.  I bounce from thing to thing here, barely registering what part of the week I’m in.  This is one of the reasons I’m so fiercely adamant about maintaining this blog when it might be easier to let it slide into internet oblivion:  especially when I’m crazy busy, I need to stop and make space for the Spirit—or recognize the many places the Spirit isn’t waiting for my invitation.  You’d think that being in divinity school I’d just be awash in Spirit interactions, but it isn’t like that.

I take that back; there are definitely parts that are like that.  I’m still wrapping my head around one class that opened in prayer (my academic mind just freaked out at the mixing of education and religion there, even though I know perfectly well that’s the whole damn point of the endeavor; oh, the ways we are trained).  It’s super weird to me that I shift from class to chapel on Wednesdays and that’s a thing we do and everyone understands it (no, chapel isn’t mandatory, but a lot of first years come because it’s part of building the community here).  I got into a conversation with a housemate of mine the other day about the ways the Church creates sacred space but then makes that space so sacred it eclipses God and must be preserved even at the cost of ministry.  It may seem odd to you that all this seems odd to me, Reader, considering I’ve been keeping a blog on where various aspects of the spiritual pop up in my life for years, but this kind of concentration is brand new.  Coming to this from a secular job is a little bit of cultural whiplash.

So I do have a million things to say about spiritual implications in my life, and perhaps that’s the problem.  There’s too much about God and not a whole lot of God going on in my world at the moment.  I had an unforeseen spare hour on Thursday and I took it to go exploring—I’ve made a point of taking any free time I have to just wander around the campus and the city and try to understand where I am and where other things are.  (There are some amazing restaurants here, y’all.)  I ended up in a chapel that belongs to the Episcopalians.  It’s a beautiful A-frame church made of ceder, so when you walk in you feel like you’re breathing inside a hope chest.  (Okay, maybe that only works for me; my mother had a ceder hope chest when I was kid in which she kept blankets and that smell is very specific in my memory.)  There were strings of origami cranes criss-crossing the back window and thick, knitted, deep purple cushions on the oak-plank pews.  It was surprisingly rustic for this urban space—and I curled up on a back pew and just breathed for a while.

So much of my relationship with God is so volatile (as you have seen, Reader).  It has been some time since I just sat in God’s presence and was, not having to carry on a conversation with Him or yell about what He had done most lately that had made my life harder or offer endless apologies for having fucked up yet again.  God didn’t want to hear from me and He didn’t want to talk to me; He just wanted to breathe in that ceder space with me.

And we did.

And that was enough.

I eventually pulled out one of my textbooks to continue my assigned reading about the Roman perception of early Christians because, to my chagrin, I’ve gotten myself to a space where I can’t spend a full hour simply being without freaking out about what I’m not doing.  (This despite having totally wasted most of an evening this week doing things that are decidedly neither helpful nor productive; this is a conversation I think we’ve all had and are perhaps still having with ourselves, about what productivity looks like and when you feel you must have it.)  But sitting in that sanctuary (especially given my predilection for sanctuaries) with this book and the air conditioning unit thunking on and off was such an unexpectedly centering moment.  It was with God rather than thinking circles around Him.

How about you, Reader?  Where are the places where you need to be a little tongue-tied so you can clear all the words that are crowding your space?  What spaces do you have—real or metaphorical—that allow you to just breathe in the ceder-scented Spirit for a while?  Can you get there?

Your continued prayers are most welcome and desired, Reader, if you think to offer them.  It’s loud in all manner of ways here, and I need to remember the peace of not needing to constantly add to it.

 

 

But Jesus was in the back of the boat, asleep on a cushion. So they woke him up and asked him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to die?”  Then he got up, rebuked the wind, and told the sea, “Calm down! Be still!”  Then the wind stopped blowing, and there was a great calm.  (Mark 4:38-39, ISV)

Greetings from the Wicket Gate

In case you’re wondering where that is, here’s a short explanation.  As Magister so rightly pointed out, everywhere I go is the Land of Pilgrims, but I’m definitely in a different geographical spot than I was a week ago.  And you still don’t need to know exactly where that is; as ever with this blog, I want what I’m doing to be more important than who I am or where I’m living.  I also want you, Reader, to be able to map your own pilgrimage onto parts of mine, not because we’re doing the same thing but because any similarities our paths have may help us understand each other and this God Who sees the whole of it that much better.

So I’m here, and I realize that the metaphorical name for it doesn’t quite fit; as with any borrowing of metaphors, it’s not perfect.  I’m at seminary (at long last, you might be saying) and to say that it is the only narrow way to the King’s Highway would be a terrible miscarriage of what seminary is and what the King is expecting of His people.  But for me, Reader, this is a start to the journey even as it’s a continuation of what I’ve been doing and what God has been doing through me.

For now, I wanted to check in and let you know I’d safely arrived; thank you for your prayers and hopes for me in the transition, as it was quite a whirlwind.  I’m now mostly unpacked (no one needs this many towels, where did they all come from?) and convinced that I’m never allowed to have a full-sized house since I accrue stuff at an alarming rate if I have space for it.

And if I don’t.

It’s funny how one of my primary desires is to find home here—and, equally, to accept that I won’t.  My heart was left behind in the Land of Pilgrims and I don’t see that changing any time soon; I lost it in church this morning as I drowned under the first wave of homesickness for my family, my congregation, my rhythms and rites.  Yet even in that moment of missing people and place so much it hurt to breathe, the service reminded me that God goes where I go—rather, I go where God goes because He was there way ahead of me, waiting.  Communion here still involves bread and grape juice and the challenge of community just as it has in so many churches not only in this country but in others.  Music here—some of it the same that we sang at camp, which I think was God being rather heavy-handed in underlining the continuity—still has so much variety and breadth and is still calling me to pay attention to God’s presence in this sacred space.  The Bible here is still God’s word, and Jesus goes by the same name here.  Yes, it’s a whole different world and my home church doesn’t have a jazz trumpet in the praise band, but God is God is God is God no matter where I am, geographically or spiritually.

What an incredible gift.

And in the midst of all this change, I’m still connected to that family, that home; technology, that hated love of mine, has ensured that Interpreter, Prudence, and several others have been at my very fingertips while I navigate orientation and moving in and unpacking and job interviews and all manner of things that are oh-so-daunting.  The relationships will change, for sure, and I can’t say that I’m thrilled about that, but change does not have to equal challenge.  In fact, having them come along for this adventure can make the relationships that much more multi-dimensional.

And you, Reader, come with me.  No matter where you are, we remain in this corner of the internet together—and I can’t tell you what a gift it is to know that you are still here exploring with me, cheering me on, sharing parts of yourself and accepting these offered parts of myself.  Thank you for being my travelling companion, Reader.

And hang on.  This gate is going to be pretty intense.

 

 

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it.”  (Matthew 7:13, AMP)

Transition Is a Beast

Hi, Reader!  I just wanted to check in since I know I’ve fallen off of my weekly rhythm of late.  My apologies, and my thanks for your patience.  You see, having come to the place of applying to seminary, then getting accepted to seminary, then accepting that acceptance, then resigning from my job, then tying off the loose ends of this life I’ve built over the last six years…

Now I have to move.

Egads!  Everything I own is covered in dust and cobwebs, I’m finding, but also I own SO MUCH STUFF tucked away in odd corners.

And in between the sneezing fits and sweaty shiftings of boxes, I’ve been a little preoccupied realizing that I’ve made quite a space for myself in the hearts of some folks up here.  That may sound silly to you, but when you leave a place you are given a front row seat to the impact you’ve had—sort of It’s a Wonderful Life without the having-never-been-born bit.  And damn, Reader, but I’ve wormed my way into a lot of random places I hadn’t even realized.

And leaving that sucks.  So.  Much.

So I’ve been super busy with preaching and lunches and getting my job ready so someone else can step into it and finding a place to live in a town I don’t really know and finding a job to pay for said place and getting all the paperwork of being a new student done and packing and packing and packing and packing…

Because I know myself well enough, Reader, to know that if I stop and realize that I’m leaving, actually leaving, I will lose my shit.

It’s horrendously unfair that, to follow God where He is leading (dragging) me, I have to leave that which made me capable of following in the first place.  And my friends will still be here and they’ll keep in touch (I hope) and that support network won’t die (I think), but it will never be the same.  Moments like this change everything, and I am not a fan of change.

Which makes it super unfortunate that I work for God, because He tends to ask for change ALL THE DAMN TIME.

But anyway.  I wanted to let you know, Reader, that I will continue blogging—I just have to be a little less busy and a lot less raw to do so.  Stick with me; this will be a crazy awesome adventure.

(If you think to pray for me, that would be super amazingly welcome.  Because it will also be a terrifying, heartbreaking, uncomfortable adventure in which God breaks me of dependence on everything but Him and I am not happy with this at all.)

 

 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)

No Justice, No Peace

Sorry this is late, Reader; I had half an entry written yesterday and then left work early to sleep because I was exhausted on every possible level.  I napped for a good chunk of the afternoon and then slept ten hours last night and I’m still tired to my very bones—but I’m working on it.

I did take the time, however, to get up last night and go to a gathering in support of Black Lives Matter here in the Land of Pilgrims.  I would say sorry, this is a blog about living into Christianity and I’m going to detour into politics, but that would be untrue.  Living into Christianity, I’m learning, is politics.  I’m not saying that we all have to declare a party, but I am saying that we’re doing something wrong (or not doing something) if we sidestep politics, especially if it’s so as not to upset people.  Jesus was an upsetting dude; He rattled the cages of a lot of folks in His day simply because He understood Himself not to be bound by the conventions of His leadership.  We as His followers have to step into the uncomfortable places where we find injustice to be light and salt and all that other stuff that would be much easier if it didn’t involve pushing other people’s buttons.

So I went to this thing because seriously, enough is enough.  I cannot in good faith—literally, in my faith—continue to say “oh, what a shame” and then pass on the opportunity to put body to voice.  Facebook rants are not enough.  Interpreter tossed this my way, indirectly, so I moved some other plans and roused myself to go on a steamy Friday night to listen.

That, actually, was my main purpose:  to listen.  This was a gathering where folks who are black could speak their piece and not have anyone talk over them, not be told they shouldn’t be angry, not be told that it wasn’t that big a deal.  I stood in this park and listened to rants, to slam poetry, to raps, to pleas, to stories of persecution and pain and loss, to exhortations, and to sorrow stretching hundreds of years because this was not a place for me to talk.  I’m white, and regardless of my feelings about that it is a biological fact.  I can’t speak to the black experience in America because I don’t have a clue about it, so I went, and I listened.

I’m glad that I did; some powerful things were said.  It was in a sense even more powerful because a family member had texted me as I was on my way over to tell me something and asked where I was going.  On my response that it was a Black Lives Matter rally, she responded that white lives matter too, that all lives matter.  They do not matter equally, I said, one white person to another; if saying that Black Lives Matter makes you defend your own racial value as though there is a limited number of resources that their assertion is taking away from you, then no, not all lives matter.  It’s an imperfect world, she responded; as long as we treat others as we want to be treated, that’s all we can do.

Wrong.

God has not called us to try, Yoda that He is.  God has called us to do, on a systemic level.  If you love your neighbor as yourself but see that they are wounded by another and do nothing, where is your love?  If you patch up a wounded man at the side of the road but don’t take him to an inn for long-term treatment, do you still get to claim being the Good Samaritan?  If we as people of faith content ourselves with simply being nice on a person-to-person level, then change will only happen on a person-to-person level.

I’m not saying that that’s bad or that that can’t change the world; it can, most certainly, and it is on that individual level that change happens at all.  But looking at the imperfections of the world and saying it will always be that way is saying that I don’t need to build the Kingdom because it’s not meant to be here on earth.  False!  We are called every day to be ready for Christ’s return; we are called every day to do something with the gifts that are given to us.  If we are just burying them in the ground and saying the world is frightening and imperfect, do we truly think Christ is going to be pleased with that?

So that was an awkward conversation.  But then I was at the rally and listening—and then I was marching.  The organizers decided to shut down one of the main shopping areas downtown with a long march of these hundreds of people to say that we are here and we are not going away, and I must say I was very unsure of whether or not I’d stay.  The police were out in force, several counter-protesters gathered with their American flags and their hatred, death threats had been made on the event’s Facebook page.  I’m moving soon, I need to avoid things like being arrested or shot.

Then I realized I was thinking that and that that was why I needed to stay.  Walking away is an option for me; if something had gone down, my being a white churchgoer would be a source of great protection for me.  My fellow gatherers of color likely wouldn’t have that; so I marched with them, clapping along to the chants—-but often being unable to speak them.

Here’s the thing:  I’m not into groupthink at all.  I also think words carry great power.  So it was hard for me to shout things like, “No justice, no peace!” because I want peace.  I have no desire to start a fight.

But am I not already in one?

 

 

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to Yahweh.  (Proverbs 17:15, WEB)

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

Another.

We don’t really talk about shootings anymore, we talk about another shooting, another bombing, another loss of what could have been.  Our hearts fill and our stomachs empty at having another death before we’ve truly internalized the last one, before we’ve pulled our flags back to the tops of their staffs, before we’ve understood what happened.  Our hearts are hardening, thicker than Pharaoh’s as we hear the tears on 24-hour loops until we cannot hear anymore, we cannot cry anymore, we cannot know any more.  Our hearts have broken so many times that the pieces no longer stay together, even with the strongest glue, the hardiest tape.

How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  (Psalm 13:2a)

I have no more answer for these, no more energy to refute those who say that black lives cannot matter unless we bury them under the suffocating banners proclaiming that all lives matter, that surely proclaiming love of everyone means that everyone is loved.  I cannot continue speaking when my throat is dry, my voice rasping from saying that I am not anti-police for being anti-police-brutality, that I can mourn the five dead officers from Dallas even as my sorrow burns into anger for Philando Castile, for Alton Sterling.  I do not understand how better to fight a system from which I benefit, in which I am uncertain of what to change but certain that change must happen.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.  (Psalm 13:3-4)

Yet to You, o God, I return if only because I have nowhere else I can think of going.  Interpreter opened the sanctuary today for a prayer vigil and I took lunch to go because I wanted that safe space to grieve, to massage my hardened heart back into feeling.  Few lights were on, allowing the sun streaming through the stained glass to provide illumination, allowing shadows to linger on the edges of the room.  Monastic chant played quietly as he lit one candle for the shooter(s) of Dallas for that person, too, is God’s creation.  Only a handful of us were able to come to this space and we lit candles for the officers, for the survivors still fighting, for the civilians.  The lighter proved difficult and so we used one of the acolyte candlelighters, bathing bruised souls in the old, old traditions of the Church and the shifting drops of flame.  We wept and prayed for all that is not changing, for the courage to continue believing and acting as though change is truly possible.

Oh that my head were waters,
    and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
    for the slain of the daughter of my people!  (Jeremiah 9:1)

There will be no post next week, Reader, because I am going back into the world of camping to act as counselor once more with middle schoolers.  Prayer is most welcome for me and how much counseling costs me emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but also for these kids.  How do I spend a week assuring them of the love of God when we all wait with shortened breath for when it is our loved ones, ourselves who die?  How do I tell them of God’s power and presence when our streets are not safe, our wars have crossed the seas to nestle in our beds and minds, our fears of those who are Different Than Us cause us to deny our own eyes and say there is no problem, there is no injustice, there is no reason to say that some lives seem to matter less than others?

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.  (Psalm 13:5)

I preached last week on the places we expect God to give us great miracles, show-stopping spectacles of power in proof of the movement of the Spirit; I preached on how we cannot make God fancy, how ours is sometimes a God Who is not in the wind or the thunder but in the still, small voice.

Reader, sit with me a moment that we might breathe together, that we might listen for that quiet Presence, that we might remember hope when it feels there are only bullets and pain, that we might light a candle to guide our way.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
 (Great Is Thy Faithfulness, stanza 3)

 

 Thus saith Jehovah: A voice hath been heard in Ramah, the wail of very bitter weeping,—Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are not.  (Jeremiah 31:15, DARBY)

Jesus Made Me a Gryffindor

Sorry, Reader; end of fiscal year + end of summer term + sermon writing for Sunday = late post.

So if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, I apologize right off for how many references this post is going to have that you won’t understand.  I am definitely part of the generation that grew up with Harry, so my geekery is pretty strong for that.  This past week, new information came out about the North American school (since Hogwarts, where Harry goes, is in Britain and we can’t all go to Britain) Ilvermorny.

Now if you don’t know, Hogwarts has four houses (since it’s a boarding school) and each new student is sorted into one based on his/her personal characteristics.  Ravenclaws are generally The Smart Kids; Slytherins are generally The Cunning Kids; Hufflepuffs are The Loyal Kids; and Gryffindors are The Brave Kids.  Of course each house has its downsides as well as its lauded attributes, but we fans have for years aligned ourselves via various online quizzes with our own houses.  I consistently get Sorted (that’s the choosing process; it’s done by a hat and you seriously need to read this series if you haven’t, Reader) into Gryffindor, which always surprises me.  I think I’ve said it before, but I’d consider myself brainy way before I’d consider myself brave.

So I took a quiz on these new houses for this new school because hey, why not?  And I got Thunderbird, the soul of the school and the house claiming the adventurers.

Wait, what?  I’m not adventurous any more than I am brave.

Yet for all my introspection, I’m apparently not paying attention to myself at all.  I had lunch Friday with my friend Prudence and had an incredible conversation with him about who we are and who we’re going to be as our lives are no longer intertwined with my moving and whatnot.  He’s a beautiful soul, but he’s also a guy who told me I was brave probably five times over the course of the conversation.  And people regularly tell me I’m adventurous, what with wandering off to Scotland without a whole lot of preparation or driving all over the country for weddings or wading into Church politics.

But the thing of it is that none of that is my natural inclination.  All of that comes out of leaping into the places God pushes me.

People have been joking with me about my going off to seminary and how the location and requirements are going to be outside of my comfort zone and I want to say to them that every time I leave my apartment I have left my comfort zone.  My comfort zone is my church and my house and that’s about it, and even those are negotiable to a certain extent.  But God continually calls me to more than those to places—and to crazy things within those two places.  Interpreter talks sometimes about God’s desire to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” so it makes perfect sense in its own way that God challenges me over and over to go into the world that doesn’t make sense, that is filled with heartbreaking things, that both frightens and depresses the crickets out of me.  We as Christians are not called to be afraid of the dark but to bring the light to a shadowed world—and that takes a shit ton of bravery and no small amount of adventurousness.

This isn’t to say that the other houses, either American or British, are less than Gryffindor or Thunderbird.  It is, however, to say that I am not in either because I am inherently brave or adventurous.  I am in these (make-believe though they are) because I am being changed, I have been changed by a God Who needs me to be brave and adventurous in order to do whatever She has in mind for me.  I don’t know what that is—oh, how I wish I did!—but I do know that wherever I am sent, I will be equipped.  Whatever courage I need will be given; whatever shape my spirit needs to be in will be remolded.  And slowly, slowly I will take on these attributes so they are who I am, so that they do become my response because I have been cheering for my House long enough that I mean it and can see those aspects of me in Christ’s service.

The next thing, of course, is to campaign for actual house competitions.  What house are you, Reader?  (Of either country.)  What attributes does that give you?  How does it—or doesn’t it—surprise you?  How do you translate that strength into God’s service?  I would love to know.  After all, lions are just big cats, and cats are curious creatures.

 

 

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.  The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  (Deuteronomy 31:7-8, NIV)

The Broken Body of Christ

I realized yesterday that apparently 2016 is Year of the Church Conferences:  Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PC[USA]), The United Methodist Church (UMC), Unitarian Universalists (UU), the Orthodox churches, the Church of the Brethren (COB, but this is less impressive because they hold one every year), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, also known as Mormons; if I include the UUs, I can’t leave out the Mormons even though they also have a conference every year), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are all holding denomination-wide conferences this year.

And that’s just the ones I know about from friends and acquaintances.

I have no idea why this year is so big for church politics.  Maybe every however many years is this big and it’s just that I’m paying attention now. Maybe it’s because we’re all gearing up for next year, which is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.  (I know I’m excited.)  Maybe it’s that we’re getting together more often in the face of a world that freaks us out rather a lot.

Whatever the reason, it’s a churchy political year.  I don’t think it’s at all an accident that it’s also a secular political year, because try as we might we churchy folk are most certainly in the world and often of it, too.  So what do churchy politics look like?

For my denomination, they look a little bipolar.  I won’t here speak of General Conference, which is the denomination-wide one, because I didn’t go to that.  But one of the things I love about Annual Conference (which, in the United Methodist Church, involves the conference level; conferences are regional bodies that usually correspond to a state or couple of states–e.g. there’s the North Georgia Conference, the Susquehanna Conference, the Dakotas Conference–or, outside the U.S., to a country or couple of countries–e.g. the Germany Central Conference or the Liberia Annual Conference) is the worship.  It’s not even necessarily whether the worship is good (although it almost always is) but that it’s wrapped into everything we do.  Starting the morning?  Worship!  Shifting to a new part of the agenda?  Worship!  Having a particularly difficult conversation before a vote?  Prayer!  Need to bring the floor to order?  Hymns!

It’s a living enactment of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which is one of only about five verses I have memorized and it’s totally because it’s so short.  It’s a taste of monastic life in the sense of building an acknowledgment of God into everything we do.  And I love that because the normal life I live outside of AC is pretty secular and it is way too easy for me to reach the end of a day or a week and be like, “O hai God, thanks for hanging around.”

But one of the things that I hate about AC is that we cut our business away from that worship even more cleanly than in the day-to-day world.  It can feel like there’s no God in the budget, or in the legislative committees, or in the votes to close down unused churches.  We try, and I thank God for the many ways that we try, but it’s super hard to be worshipful when talking about parliamentary procedure.  The happy clappy spirituality of belting out Here I Am, Lord can be difficult to translate into voting on an amendment to an amendment to an original motion adding a sentence to a proposed statement of unity (which happened this year, really).

So how do we work as the people of God, as the Bride of Christ, as the hands and feet building the Kingdom?  I appreciate the frustration of the people who want to do away with denominational structures and go back to the early church that had way fewer rules, and I think they’re partly right.  But I don’t think we can go back; we’re too big.  Christianity has shaped the world, especially the Western hemisphere, in a way currently unmatched by any other religion.  We can’t pretend that rules, regulations, procedures, and conversations aren’t important.

And we shouldn’t try–our conferences, despite themselves, are doing good things.  At my conference this year we committed ourselves to continuing the conversation about our denomination and sexuality; we decided that gender and sexuality could no longer be factors considered in the ordination process for new clergy; we bound ourselves to standing against discrimination against Muslims, equipping and sending each church to stand in their communities in partnership; we decided that all churches in our conference will remain gun-free zones no matter what the state government says; we pledged to advocate with all of our resources for restorative justice to fight against the prison pipeline that so disproportionately tears apart minority communities; we gave authority to UMCOR to continue working in areas affected by natural and man-made disasters; and we even passed a budget.

Some of that might seem to be window dressing, speaking of action rather than doing it, and some of that might truly be window dressing.  But it is still the Church realizing that we must engage this world we are in, it is the Church trying to marshal its resources of literally thousands of people (there were almost 3,000 at this conference, I think) to have any reality in praying “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Yes, it gets nitpicky and exhausting, and yes, there are definitely lots of differing ideas about what God’s will really is in all this legislation.  We are the Body of Christ, but we are not perfect.  Like our world, we are broken; but, I realized today, so was Christ.  His body was broken, shattered; we remember this in every communion we take.  But it did not stay there; the Body, like her King, is not meant to limp along forever.  One day we will be raised in perfection—complete with scars from all the times we have fallen, but living.

Not a bad thing for which to keep striving.

 

 

Avoid foolish and thoughtless discussions, since you know that they produce conflicts.  (2 Timothy 2:23, CEB)