The Church I love is in the news again, at least for a little while.
• This church which has nurtured my spiritual development my entire life.
A church which has always encouraged me to think for myself.
A church which has taught me “God loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so and because the ministers have told me so.”
A church which has sometimes echoed St. Augustine’s suggestion, “Love God and do as you please!” which reflects a lot of confidence in the Grace of God.
A church which has reflected St. Julian of Norwich’s words, “All will be well! Yes, and all will be well!”
A church which has sometimes echoed Martin Luther’s words, “Sin boldly!” which reflects a lot of faith in the Grace of God.
A church which connects me to the ancient traditions of the broader church while attempting to speak to me in the language and concepts of today.
I hope everyone belongs to a church like this where everyone is trying to serve God and others though they may not agree on the HOW of serving God and others. How many times do we read stories of or have lived through division in a church, where one group thinks they have a monopoly on God’s truth and the other group thinks they have a monopoly on God’s truth and the church splits. How many churches in our own community came into being because of splits in churches rather than because they wanted to plant a new church? There are literally thousands of denominations in our country because of:
different perspectives on God’s truth
different perspectives on the best church polity
different perspectives on what is most important
different perspectives on HOW to best love God and one another.
I happen to believe that even with all of our differences that almost every church is attempting to live out of and live into Jesus’ command, “Love God with all your heart, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself!” What a beautiful and inspiring command to live up to! It does appear that Christians disagree on the HOW to love our neighbor and maybe even on HOW to love and/or serve God. It sometimes appears that we are following in the apostles’ footsteps even in this disagreement, for we know Peter and Paul and James all had unique perspectives on the HOW. Each Gospel writer had a unique and different view of that as well, not to mention John’s unique language and view.
We have lot to learn from the apostles and those who collaborated in assembling the Bible. They allowed contradictory views and perspectives to be expressed, trusting that the Holy Spirit would weave all of it into a beautiful thing. And it is a beautiful thing when God’s people live in harmony and respect one another’s efforts to follow Jesus’ commands. It is as simple and as complicated as that: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself!”
For what it’s worth.
“For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face.” I Corinthians 13.12 KJV.
Rev. Shumard is rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Waynesboro. You may contact him at [email protected] or at stmichaelswaynesboro.org.
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