Clergy View: 3 things remain
Stanley Hauerwas is one of my favorite Christian theologians.
In one of his books he says that he doesn't believe that we should just accept people for the way they are. He went on to quote Mark Twain who once said, "About the worst advice you can give anyone is to be themselves." I can assure you that when St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians he wasn't saying, "Oh, I heard about your problems. Keep having them!"
One important thing we often forget when reading Paul's letters is that they were intended for a public audience. The word "You" in his letters is hardly ever singular. It would be so much better if we all had a Southern translation of the Bible. If we're reading from that Southern Bible this Sunday (from Paul's letter to the Corinthians), we would hear "...and y'all belong to Christ." This church thing is family. It's community. We're not to be people with all their differences in the world always going our separate ways.
In church we are called to learn a different language in which those differences don't matter. What matters is what we share and how we communicate.
I see families at a restaurant, waiting for dinner, where no one is speaking and all are looking at their cellphones—some playing video games, other's sending out text messages. It hardly looks like a family. Just a bunch of individuals somehow stuck at the same table. Then I think of church. Let me tell you, I've never seen someone with their cellphone in their hand when coming for communion. Thank the Lord!
In church we are a community and when the invitation to the table comes we walk forward hungry and thirsty, young and old alike. For what? For God.
In a church you should never hear messages like, "Just do your own thing." Or "Discover yourself." We do hear troubling messages, though, from time to time. Actually this might be a Sunday to stay away from some churches. Some of us are still reading from Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount. This Sunday? Jesus said, "But I say to you (y'all), Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
The word for love? In Greek, it's "agape." Watch out if you see a license plate with the word "agape" on it. If they really believe in a Jesus-shaped agape they shouldn't be tailgating you. (The only thing wrong with this metaphor is that they ought to be so far back you shouldn't be able to read the word even backwards.)
Those old words of Jesus, "You have heard it said..." remind of things I once said. (And maybe you did too.) And then his words, "But I say unto you..." come to us. Those are the very words that bring us to one another. Peacemaking and reconciliation are practices we only know through a life of faith.
My prayer is that people in all kinds of leadership roles are in worship this weekend. Maybe we can all put down our cellphones and start talking again. Let us find common ground in seeing each other, even our enemies, as children of God meant to be in community. We can change our ways. Always assume that others can change as well. One more thought of Paul. Three things remain: faith, hope and love. And greatest of these is love.
The Rev. George H. Martin is senior interim pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross, Nisswa.