This post is less for general consumption and more for our church at First UMC Burlington. However, feel free to share as you feel led and invite others to the conversation.
I’ve done it thousands of times over the past 40 1/2 years. That ring on my finger on my left hand – I’ve taken it between the tip of my thumb and the base of my pinky and swirled it around. I was doing that the other day when I felt something I hadn’t felt before – a scratch. I looked at the ring, and lo … there are lots of scratches! My wedding ring is scratched.
Henri Nouwen wrote a book that has become a classic for Christians who are serious about “ministry”. It’s called The Wounded Healer. With profound simplicity, Nouwen points out that, just as the wounds of Christ on the cross have a redemptive power, the wounds we experience in our lives have the potential to become our strong places. Not our strengths, not our competence, not our expertise … but our wounds – those are the places we have become the most sensitive. It is from the places where life is scratched, hurt, suffering – that’s where redemptive relationships are most powerfully, lovingly, and permanently knit together.
This coming Sunday – February 9 – we are inviting people to stay after worship for a conversation at First UMC Burlington. We aren’t gathering to talk about our vision for the future or what we are going to do with the report from the architect (that’s for March 9). We aren’t going to debate various budget items. We are going to talk with each other, listen to one another, minister to each other, and perhaps even love each other from a place where so many Christians feel passionate and wounded. Our own congregation has been through this conversation before, but some might feel that the conversation didn’t end; it just stopped. That’s what happens when what is supposed to be a “relationship” is reduced to an “issue”.
Are gay and lesbian persons welcome – completely welcome in our church family? Are their gifts valued? Would we celebrate the relationship between same-sex couples and worship joyfully with them?
As homosexual persons, can we love those who think our lifestyle is wrong … even sinful? Can we walk to the Communion Table with them?
Can we truly and fully be “the church” with each other? Maybe we can discover again that the power of the Christian gospel isn’t in judging who is right or wrong. The power is in loving as we have been loved – unreservedly, unquestionably, unconditionally. God so loved … That’s what Jesus taught, lived and died for.
St. Paul compares the relationship between the church and Christ to marriage … and my wedding ring is scratched. But those “scratches” are where patience, self-reflection, forgiveness, commitment, and joy – yes, true joy – have been birthed.
We hope our parishioners will stay for the conversation. Child care is provided. One hour. Let’s examine some of the “scratches”. Perhaps we will find Jesus there.
Have a blessed Thursday.