Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 25, 2010 - Prayers of the People

Thank you, O God, for this day.

Your day.
The LORD's day.
A time to worship you … to get our house in order.
The LORD's Day …
It’s not about us, and it feels right and good, to step aside from ourselves.
We’re tired of our self-absorption, O God.
Deliver us, we pray, from our little worlds of me and mine.
Retool our hearts with your Holy Spirit …
Conform us to the image of Christ.
Forgive our sins.
Restore us … refresh us … and send us into your world with healing for the nations …
And give us, we pray, a full and joyful measure of your Holy Spirit.

Creator of the heavens and the earth,
We thank you.
For the wonders of our planet.
The birds of the air and the fish of the sea.
All creatures, great and small.
For you made and love them all.
Grant us, we pray, kindness toward nature.
Forgive the greed that rips a rain forest to shreds.
The thoughtlessness that fills the seas with garbage.
The manipulation of soil with pesticides and herbicides.
The cruelty of industrial farming.
Filling the food chain with hormones and antibiotics and strange chemicals, altering the shape of life, in ways we do not know.

With your Spirit, O God, give us good eyes, eyes to see the natural around us … the beauty of the sky and the delicate curve of a gull’s wing … the power of the wolf and the innocence of the lamb.
Give us ears to hear the birds of dawn as they greet the day with joyful song, and from them, O God, teach us to greet the day with song, giving thanks for our lives, and trusting you to provide what’s needed every day of life … all the way to eternity.

Give us, we pray, a sense of balance.
It’s not about us.
It’s about your world.
Nor what we want.
But what we need.

And we need you.
We need a finer compassion and a richer love.
Our hearts need to be fleshed out with Christ.

Thank you, Dear God,
For friends and family.
For pets and gardens.
For pots and pans.
For salt and pepper and oregano and rosemary and thyme and coriander.

Thank you for a good bottle of wine.
And good music.
And faith, hope and love.

And thank you, most of all, for Jesus our LORD.
Who taught us to pray, saying:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done …

Monday, July 5, 2010

Theological Friendships

I have some friends, and mostly we see eye-to-eye on the issues of life.

But that hasn't always been the case.

I've had good friends who stood in a place quite different than I did. Most of those friendships were brief, but some have endured for years.

I've tried to think through what those enduring friendships have been like, and why they endured in spite of differing takes on things.

In some respects, we simply liked each other, and respected each other's integrity - that we worked at hard at what we believed, and we sought to live our lives faithfully in and through the love of Christ.

And while we might kid the daylights out of one another, our conversations were marked with a lot of listening and "I understand your point of view a little more clearly now."

I've learned that it's possible to understand someone's point of view and still not agree, but it's harder to vilify someone when you understand and respect them.

In terms of my friendships, understanding and respect came from a lot of early-morning breakfasts with ham and eggs and lots of coffee. "Okay, I'll see ya' again in two weeks." And looking back, humor played a huge roll as well - jokes and banter were as important as the ham and eggs.

In reality, I think such friendships are rare. Mostly, we hang around with those who stand in our corner. Makes sense. We like those who like what we like.

But Jesus reminds us that such friendship, or love, is no big deal. What's really a big deal is "loving our enemies."

I think Jesus chooses the word "enemy" to make something clear to us - that love can be far and beyond similarities and commonalities, and that such love is deeply ethical in how we view and treat one another.

I hold my convictions firmly - I guess that's what makes them convictions. But I've enjoyed the honest criticism of others who hold their convictions with equal firmness. But when we "love our enemy," we refuse to make the final move - that "I'm right and you're wrong." A friendship of differing views can endure when we bow before the mystery of God's grace and love - that we're both servants of the Most High God, both driven by honest and Spirit-impelled motives. Though our instincts want to bring closure to the argument, "You're wrong; I'm right!", we refuse to make that final move.

And with that, I've enjoyed some remarkable friendships over the years.

But can this be translated into an entire denomination where practices are at stake?

Where the question of ordination is on the table?

To be or not to be?

There are sane and reasonable voices who yet champion more conversation and better listening.

And while that might make for interesting conversations over ham and eggs, it hardly helps us out of the impasse of practice - to ordain LGBT persons or not.

Yet others who say, "The time for listening is done. We have listened to one another, and we understand one another. We're just in different places."

My heart aches for my LGBT friends, and when someone (usually straight) suggests that we need more time, I usually think, "Well, that's easy for YOU to say."

I offer no answers here.

Anyone who has read my previous postings know that I'm short on answers for our current situation.

Local option?

Gracious separation?

While I might enjoy friendships with folks of other persuasions, and benefit from lively discussion, I'm still left, as they are, with the question of practice.

And that's the divide for the denomination.

As I see it.