“red church, blue church, whose church?”
Matthew 4:12-23; I Corinthians 1:10-18
January 27, 2008
Lake Harriet Christian Church
About a year or two ago, I went down to Des Moines to lead a class at the School for Congregational Learning. I had prepared long and hard for the meeting and expected several people to show up at the meeting to hear about new church planting. As the time came for the class to start, I waited for people to show up. Well, two people ended up attending the class. Two. And the two who attended were interesting.
The first guy was a pastor of a church in Southern Iowa. As we chatted, I started to realize this person had a reputation of causing trouble in his congregation. At some point he started talking about one the problems with the denomination: ordaining gay pastors.
I remained calm, putting on my best poker face. This was going to be an interesting class.
The second person arrived. It turns out she was a member of the same congregation who had opposed this pastor. The tension in the room was thick. I was wondering what in the world had I done to be placed in the middle of this argument.
I went ahead and did my presentation. I talked about Community of Grace, the church plant I helped start, and how it was a welcoming congregation to gay and lesbian people. In the end we had a good conversation, as good a conversation as you can have under these circumstances.
When the class mercifully ended, the pastor who had complained about gay pastors came up to me and apologized for his remarks. As hard as it was to hear those remarks, I accepted his apology with as much grace as I could.
And I was glad this was all over.
Our culture today is a fractured one. We divide ourselves, by race, or political persuasion. One might hope that the Church would be the one place where there would be a sense of unity. Nope. We are divided on a bunch of issues, from sexuality to inclusive language to well, the color of the carpet in the sanctuary.
Now when Tammy asked me to be part of what I like to call “tag team preaching,” I was expecting to preach only from the Matthew text, but I think God had other plans because the text from I Corinthians kept popping up in my mind. Maybe its because I've been busy all week dealing with an a meeting that took place among local Presbyterians about gay ordination, I don't know. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth and he is pretty upset. He hears that there are divisions among the congregation. People are saying that they were baptized by this person and that and dividing themselves along those lines. Paul comes in and says that the important thing is not who baptized who, but the preaching of the gospel.
He talks about the message of the cross and about the church being in agreement and not division. Does Paul mean that we should all think the same and never argue? No. We are faced with a lot of issues that need to be fleshed out. But I think the unity Paul was talking about was that no matter who baptized who, or what one thinks on gay ordination, or the war in Iraq, we are united in Christ and must be Christ to each other. In the end, the gospel isn't about these issues, but is shaped in the life of Jesus, who lived a sacrificial life that lead to the cross.
When Jesus called his first disciples, he said they would be fishers of people. Their ministry would be one of living for Christ and others, not living for whatever particular issue that comes by.
Disagreements will come. But the question is how will we as Christians handle ourselves? We show each other grace and love and even when we disagree, or will we be just like the rest of the world, thinking of ourselves and not others?
The gospel passage is a passage about discipleship, about following Christ. Paul's letter reminds us that this walk with Christ is one that costs. The way of Cross is not easy, but since Christ has walked down that road, we know we aren't alone.
Thanks be to God. Amen.