Unity, Diversity, and the Body of Christ

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Over the past week, I’ve been working to get my garden prepped a bit for spring and to start some of the seeds that will be set out after Mother’s Day.  And I was reminded as I dug my fingers into the dirt that soil is so incredibly diverse and complex.  That just one handful of the stuff contains more living organisms than there are people on this planet.   

And in every part of the soil, every one of those organisms has a part to play, impacting chemical and physical properties.  And all of these living organisms live off of and feed off of one another.  It is their interaction that makes soil healthy and thriving and good.

In his book, The Third Plate, Dan Barber describes two ways of seeing what is happening in the soil that surrounds us.

One, is a class system… or a battlefield…

We’ve all seen those videos of a tiny fish being eaten by a bigger fish, being eaten by an even bigger fish… that’s some of what happens in the dirt beneath our feet.  One way of looking at all of the interaction beneath us is to focus on how microbes are eaten by protozoa, which are eaten by centipedes, ants, and beetles.

 

 

But another way of thinking about all of that diversity in the soil is as a system of checks and balances. 

 

Fred Magdoff is a soil scientist and he thinks that “When there is sufficient and varied food for the organisms, they do what comes naturally, ‘making a living’ by feeding on the food sources that evolution provided… What you have is a thriving, complex community of organisms.”

And all of that diversity and interaction in the soil is what makes our food taste good. 

Magdoff says, “Taste comes from a more complex molecule that gets eaten, taken apart, and put back together in a different way.  The plant takes this, and all the other molecules, and catalyzes them into phytonutrients.  Taste doesn’t come from the elemental compounds (like calcium or nitrogen).  It comes from the synthesis” [The Third Plate, Dan Barber, page 85]

 

That’s really why you and I want all of that diversity in the soil after all.  Because we want the things we grow to thrive and taste good.  We want it to bear tasty fruit! 

In musical composition, unless it is a solo piece, it is the interaction of the various instruments each playing their part, yet working together that create harmonization.  

And in the church, it is the way that we each utilize our various gifts and we each play our part as hands or tongues or livers that allows the Body of Christ to make a difference in this world.  

 

But sometimes, the church acts more like a battlefield than the Body of Christ.  

When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, he was responding to the way factions and power and pride were tearing the community apart.  

Corinth was a port city and as such it had incredible diversity.  Ideas from across the globe all mingled and freed slaves lived amongst wealthy entrepreneurs.  The church reflected this diversity… but that created a power contest between the believers who argued with one another about which ideology or status was better than another.

At every turn, Paul reminds the people that their diversity should be seen not as a source of division, but as a blessing.  Because of their varied gifts and perspectives, they could do far more together than any of them could do on their own.  

 

We’ve experienced this as a church, haven’t we?  We have incredible diversity as far as our age and our political and theological perspectives and yet look at the amazing things that we have done together.

We raised over $5000 for Joppa in a weekend with a garage sale last year that brought so many different people together.

We built on Faith Hall and paid it off in record time because every person did their part.

We successfully launched Children’s Church because of the incredible work of so many different volunteers and people who were willing to try something new.  

Today is the last day of Third Grade Bible, which is an amazing way our more experienced folks help our young people learn about this amazing book that guides our faith journey.  

 

None of that could happen unless the various parts of THIS Body of Christ were willing to step up and play a part.  

You might be a foot or an eye or a spleen, but you play a part in this church.   We all play a part.  You might think that you are too young or too old or too busy to make a difference, but Paul says you are wrong.  You are an essential part of making the church work!  

Or you might think that church would be a whole lot simpler if everyone was just like me, but again, Paul says we are wrong.  It takes all of our different perspectives and experiences… even when they make things more complex… to be the Body of Christ God has intended for this community.

 

In the United Methodist Church right now, we are divided.  We are different.  And we feel differently about human sexuality.  We can’t always agree about how we should be in ministry with those folks on the margins, whether they are refugees or poor or elderly or tattooed or whatever else marks them as different from the majority.  And underneath all that disagreement is that we don’t all read the scripture in the same way.  

And sometimes, that diversity feels like a war.  It feels like the battle described the soil beneath us or in that clip from Minions.  We are chewing each other up and spitting each other out. And I hate the way my brothers and sisters are hurt and damaged by actions and words that cut to the core of their very being.  And I’ve watched as some people have walked away from the Body of Christ because of it.

When you focus on the conflict that diversity creates, you want to strip out everything that is different to protect yourself and others.  We want simple things.  We want unity, which means, we want to all be the same.

But I believe, and Paul believes, that to be healthy, we need diversity.  We need difference.  We need checks and balances.  We need reminders of the importance of the scripture and justice and mercy and love from people who don’t see it the same way we do. 

We need to listen. 

We need to hold one another accountable. 

We also need to challenge one another. 

We need to be willing to speak the truth in love.

And together, the interaction of all of our different parts creates something beautiful and mysterious and powerful.

John Wesley claimed the Moravian Motto: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.”

There are key things that are pretty essential to who we are as not only United Methodists, but as Christians:  ideas like believing in the Triune God, and understanding that grace plays a role in our lives.  Core things, without which we simply could not be the Body of Christ.  

But there are other things that are non-essential.  What style of music or which translation or scripture or if we prefer percolator coffee or ground coffee or whole bean pour over. In those things, we are called to allow the freedom of diversity and expression and to give room and space for our siblings in Christ to be different and to share their varying gifts.

But no matter what… in all things, we are called to love.  To respect each other.  To listen.  To disagree without being disagreeable.  To be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  

In all things, Love.

It is not a coincidence that this chapter on what it means to be the Body of Christ comes right before the chapter on love.  Because the only way we make this kind of community work is through love.  We’ll talk more about that next week.   

 

In the same way the soil beneath our feet thrives on diversity and competition and interaction and synergy – this church thrives because we are different AND because we love one another.  And through God’s grace, that means we can do more than any one of us could accomplish on our own for the Kingdom of God.

Amen.

 

Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve

In the beginning…

 

Most years when we get to the season of Advent, we dive deep into the gospel texts.  We want to hear about the shepherds and angels, about Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the magi and the star.

Yet, as Heidi Haverkamp will share with us in this week’s reflections in her book “Advent in Narnia”, the medieval church also focused on Adam and Eve. 

They went all the way back to the beginning to remember who we are and why God needed to come to redeem us. December 24th was the feast day of Adam and Eve… a time to rehearse once again the story of the creation and the fall. 

And that tradition continued in the seasonal Lessons and Carols of Kings College… which will be presented next Sunday at Simpson College.  There, too, the story of love and light begins where it should… in the beginning. 

 

In the first chapters of the book of Genesis, we find out who we are.    We were created by God.  We were created for relationship and to care for this world.  And having been given the world, we want more, we desire more, we test our boundaries and more often than not… we cross them. 

This is the human condition.  It is our story. 

And so maybe it is not so surprising that when the Pevensie children stumble into Narnia and the magical creatures of the land discover these humans, they are called the “Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve”. 

They, and we, are full of goodness and knowledge and love.  

Last week, we met Lucy, the youngest child whose heart is full of longing and hope.  Her love was so strong that it cut through the fear of Mr. Tumnus and helped to transform his life.

The prophecies of Narnia talk about how these four children will bring hope to the land and break the power of the White Witch…

 

But they, and we, are also full of temptation, mistakes, and sin.  

The next child who makes his way into the wardrobe has a much different experience.  

Edmund is the next youngest and he often feels left out and unappreciated.  He is jealous and hurt and when he finds himself in Narnia the first to cross his path is the White Witch.

 

We find in their encounter a parallel to our story in Genesis chapter 3 this morning.  

First, there is this figure that is on the edges of our main characters story… a figure that at first seems completely neutral.  

On the one hand, we have the serpent, the craftiest and most intelligent of all the creatures who strikes up a conversation with Eve.  The serpent asks questions, raises intrigue, and starts Eve wandering about that tree in the middle of the garden.

The White Witch is beautiful, arrives on a sleigh and plies Edmund with warm beverages and questions.  She invites him up onto her sleigh and tempts him with his favorite treat:  Turkish Delight.  

Both are lured in by what is pleasing to the eye and good to eat…

 

But even more than that, they are both lured by the possibility of what might away it they say yes.  

Eve is told by the serpent that she will not die as she supposes, but she will become like God – knowing good and evil.  All of creation is at her fingertips, and yet she longs for the one thing that has not been given to her.  She is not satisfied with the blessings that surround her.

Edmund is likewise tempted by power… and a life apart from his siblings.  “It is a lovely place, my house,” said the Queen.  “I’m sure you would like it.  There are whole rooms of Turkish Delight…. I want a nice boy whom I could bring up as a Prince and who would be King of Narnia when I’m gone.” As the youngest son, he glimpses in this offer approval and power, love and prestige… to finally have the chance to lord it over his brothers and sisters.  

Overcome by the temptation, he agrees to lure his siblings to the palace.  

And like Adam and Eve, as soon as Edmund is away from the witch and realizes what he has done, he begins to be filled with shame.  

He encounters Lucy in the woods, who tells him the truth about the White Witch and he begins to feel sick to his stomach…  That, and he ate too much Turkish Delight.

 

As we continue our story over the coming weeks, we will experience Edmund’s journey.  He will make more mistakes. 

Like any good Christmas movie, there has to be a bad guy… a Scrooge, a spinster, a grouch…

But eventually Edmund will experience mercy and forgiveness, life and love.  The delight of a Hallmark Christmas move is to watch that characters life turn around.  Scrooge finds his generosity.  The Grinch’s heart grows.  A  prodigal son returns home.  

 

We are the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve.  We have an infinite capacity for good and for evil residing in our souls.  

Maybe that is why some of our most popular Christmas songs ask us to reflect upon the state of our souls.

“He’s making a list and checking it twice, Gonna find out whose naughty and nice….

He sees you when you’re sleepin’  He knows when you’re awake.

He knows if you’ve been bad or good… so be good for goodness sake.”

 

The truth is, we are both.  

We are simultaneously sinners and saints.

Our lives are full of mistakes and missteps, but also acts of kindness and generosity.  

We are tempted by the glitz and glam and our comfort zones, but occasionally find our way out to be in real relationship with people who are struggling.

The reality of our souls is not as simple as making a list of who is good and who is bad.  

 

And the good news is that while we were yet sinners… while we were still weak… while we are this complicated jumble of goodness and evil… God entered our lives to redeem all of the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve

 

As we sing in “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we yearn for the Christ Child to be born in our midst to cast out the sin of our lives.  We yearn for new life, for joy, for an end to the tears and the loneliness and the pain.

This season is about transformation and embracing what is good and holy and pure… letting go of the past that has haunted us.

God has come to offer us mercy and forgiveness and life abundant.

Thanks be to God.

Tears, Comfort, and Old Hymns

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This morning, our church choir shared some of the great hymns of the faith with our church in a cantata style celebration of music.

Instead of our traditional Easter cantata, we picked some of our favorite hymns, our fearless leader researched their stories, and we presented a morning of lessons, messages and songs.

And tears were abundant.

There was a moment at some point in the process where I had noticed that we hadn’t picked a lot of “cheery” songs.  Typically, our Easter Cantata is full of life and energy and joy and pep.  But this wasn’t, after all, an Easter cantata.  So I let it go.  God knew what was in the works.

Each hymn, each song we shared, celebrated the promises of life after death in their own way.  Each was filled with hope, even if they were born out of tragedy.  Each was a reminder of the power of music to sustain our faith and keep us going even in the hardest moments along the way.

We didn’t need trumpets and fanfares and complicated melodies or driving beats.  We simply sang the faith that has formed us and it filled our souls.

Thanks be to God.

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Everyone is gone for the day.

The church is quiet and still.

And here I sit, pouring over the words in the hymnal and songbooks.

Looking for just the right combination of joy and reflection. Of longing and praise. Of reality and possibility. Of the familiar and the uncomfortable.

Sometimes I forget we also have to sing the tunes.

Singing a song #NaBloPoMo

This fall, a month or so after choir started, I decided to start going with a friend of mine.

I love to sing.
I can’t say I’m good at it, but I love it.

There is something special about making music that taps into my spirituality.  I’ll find myself singing as I debate a problem or wrestle with a solution. I sing as I pick out hymns. I work to connect the lyrics with the scriptures and message and use the tunes to set the emotional mood of the moment in worship.  I sing when I’m happy and microwaving my lunch (“Hot Pockets”).

I wasn’t sure if I could make the time commitment.  I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the dual roles on Sunday mornings.  I wasn’t sure if my voice would be too tired.

But let’s be honest… I’m singing my guts out on the hymns and songs anyways.  I might as well stand with the choir for one more.

Tonight, I am exhausted and my vocal chords are tired, but I am so glad I joined the choir. Now I can’t imagine Wednesday without it.

P.S. pictures of people singing without mics look a lot like they are yelling!

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All Will Be Well

 
by ClearlyCassidy

Julian of Norwich, in a time of doubt and struggle, wrote:  All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

This is my last column in the Circuit Rider because on October 1, I will be beginning a new journey as the Coordinator for Imagine No Malaria with the Iowa Annual Conference.  It is a long job title but a very short and intense ministry that I am very excited about beginning.

My new position will take me across the state, working with clergy and laity, young and old, small churches and the biggest churches, as we together raise funds to end death and suffering from malaria by 2015.  While it might seem like only an outreach project, the truth is, I understand this campaign to be something bigger in the life of our Iowa Annual Conference of the UnitedMethodistChurch.  Working together on this effort will help us build bridges between conservative and liberal sides of our church.  Focusing outward on mission and partnering with our community to raise funds through health fairs and 5k runs and lemonAID stands will help us build relationships outside the walls and revitalize our churches.  That is something that YOU have experienced here in Marengo.  As we turned our hearts to both local and global mission, the Holy Spirit moved in and a spark of love and light ignited in this church.

When I came here to Marengo, neither you nor I knew what to expect.  There is a song that I played frequently in those days to myself called “All Will Be Well” by the Gabe Dixon Band.

The new day dawns, / and I’m practicing my purpose once again. / it is fresh and it is fruitful if I win but if I lose, / Ooooo I don’t know. / I will be tired but I will turn and I will go, / Only guessing til I get there then I’ll know, / Oh oh oh I will know.

I was fresh out of seminary and you were ready to become a fruitful church… but we didn’t know it was going to work between us.  It was a wild guess on our parts… but something amazing for God’s part.

All the children walking home past the factories / could see the light that’s shining in my window as I write this song to you. /  All the cars running fast along the interstate  / can feel the love that radiates /  illuminating what I know is true /  All will be well. / Even after all the promises you’ve broken to yourself, / All will be well. /  You can ask me how but only time will tell.

I don’t know what God has in store for this church… but I know that God will be with you and all shall be well.  I know that God has led you to embrace an amazing mission: to reflect the light of God in Marengo and Iowa County as you step out into the world and pass it on.  I know that the Holy Spirit has been moving strongly in your midst and that God will not leave you or forsake you.  I know that all will be well.  You can ask me how, but only time will tell.

Keep it up and don’t give up / and chase your dreams and you will find / all in time.

You are my first church… and I love you dearly and I will miss you terribly… but all shall be well.  Keep your hearts focused on what God has called you to do.  Give your lives to living out that vision. God bless you all.

Spirit of Singing Along

The sorcerer and the eunuch.

As we continue to follow the Holy Spirit through the lives of the apostles, we come upon two men who have very different attitudes towards the work of God.

In the course of his ministry, the deacon Philip will encounter many people who hear and believe the good news about Jesus Christ… what is it about the sorcerer and the eunuch that make their stories so special?

I believe it is the contrast between their responses that is so telling.

One arrogant and brash, the other humble and full of questions.

For one, the power of the Holy Spirit is a commodity to be bought and sold, possessed and tamed.

For the other, that power is precious, mysterious, and a gift to be treated delicately.

Like with the story of Mary and Martha, we are given a chance to examine our lives, find where our tendencies lie, and invited to choose a better way.

The first major difference in these two stories is how each of them is introduced to the Holy Spirit.

In the case of the sorcerer, familiar with magic and illusion, the Holy Spirit is seen from a far.   Here is a man who has heard the good news of God and joined the fellowship of believers.  He has in some ways left behind his old ways, but he still desires to be the center of attention.  He still wants to draw a crowd.  And so when he sees the apostles laying hands on people so that they could receive the Holy Spirit, he suddenly wants their job.

So he runs over to them and throws down a bag of coins… “I want to do that, too!” he begs. “Give me that authority.”

The sorcerer believes the Holy Spirit is something to be possessed.  The sorcerer wants a new bag of tricks for his show.

On the other hand, the eunuch has the Holy Spirit brought to him.  We can see how she is working behind the scenes… leading Philip to take a certain road, telling him to walk alongside the cart.  She has already been present in the life of this eunuch who is reading the scriptures, hoping to understand them.  And so, when he hears the good news, and an oasis of water suddenly appears alongside their desert road, he asks – what would stop me from being baptised too?  It is not a demand, it is a humble question of faith.

In our journeys of faith, sometimes we get jealous of what other people have – faith that seems so strong, a prayer life that seems so powerful.   We often struggle with what we don’t have.

Maybe you have uttered the phrase, “I wish I could pray like so and so” or “if only we had a choir or a praise band” or “I wish I could read the scriptures like that person.”

There is nothing wrong with wanting to grow in our faith.  There is nothing wrong with seeing what other people are doing and seeking God’s guidance about the ways we can live out our faith.

But in the stories of the sorcerer and the eunuch, we are invited to see that it is not what we don’t have that matters…. what matters is what the Holy Spirit has already brought into our lives.  We can be so busy looking at what others have and what we desire that we can’t see the gifts right in front of us.  One of the things that we will explore later this morning in our workshop is the idea that we don’t have to have a fancy choir in order to be faithful to God… we each have a voice that we can use, we each have a part to play in our time of worship.  Just because we don’t have robes and lights and big voices does not mean that there isn’t a song to be sung.

The other major difference between these two characters is what they are hoping to gain through the Holy Spirit.

While the sorcerer had once been the center of attention, he finds that notoriety fading as a new player, the deacon Philip, comes on the scene.  Suddenly, it is someone else doing the healing… someone else drawing the crowds… and the sorcerer himself is astonished by the power that the followers of Christ possess.

But as soon as he perceives the source of this power, he wants it for himself.  He wants to again be someone that others flock around.  He wants to have the magical ability so that he can carry it to some far off place and again be on the stage with people at his feet.  Our sorcerer is a performer and faith is a tool, a prop, to get him what he wants.  Or maybe its not even quite a cynical as that… Faith is now a part of his life – but he can’t quite give up his old ways and he transforms the faith rather than allowing it to transform him.

Notice, no where did I talk about a community, or a group… faith for the sorcerer was all about himself and what he could use it for.

On the other hand, our eunuch wanted to be included.  He wanted to belong.  He wanted to be a part of a community that understood.

Our text tells us that this African man was coming from Jerusalem where he had probably spent time in the temple worshipping.  And yet, as a eunuch, the fullness of worship would have been closed off to him.  He would only have been allowed into the Court of the Gentiles.  Gary DeLashmutt writes that because of his social standing as a “sexually altered black man from a pagan country” doors were automatically closed for him.  Who knows what his experiences had been in Jerusalem… how many times he had been turned away…

In spite of his standing in the court of the queen of Ethiopia… in spite of his wealth… in spite of all the power he could and did possess, the eunuch knew that he could not buy a place in the family of God.  He knew that there were countless barriers in his way, but all he wanted to do was to belong.

In spite of the threat of further rejection, the eunuch persists and when he and Philip come to that small oasis of water by the side of the road, he asks a heartbreaking question:  “What would prevent me from being baptized?”

He wants to belong.  He wants to join in the fellowship.  And he found in Philip a person who, according to DeLashmutt, “understood that his standing with God was based not on his ethnic identity, moral record, religious heritage, etc.—but through Jesus’ death alone… He understood that Jesus loved this eunuch and was able to give him new life just as he did Philip.” So he leads him down to the water and our eunuch is baptized.

Although our story says that he went on his way rejoicing, we do not know the end of his story. We don’t know where he goes or how his life and his faith continue in the story of God.  But we know that want he wanted was to belong… and when someone finds true welcome, they in turn want to pass it on.

In the stories of the sorcerer and the eunuch, we find a performer desiring a stage and a person seeking a home.  In their contrast, we are reminded that faith through the Holy Spirit is not about me or you, but about us.

Diedrich Bonhoeffer once wrote:  “It is not you that sings, it is the church that is singing, and you, as a member… may share in its song.  Thus all singing together that is right must serve to widen our spiritual horizon, make us see our little company as a member of the great Christian church on earth, and help us willingly and gladly to join our singing, be it feeble or good, to the song of the church”

Many of you are here because you have already found a spiritual home… you have found a community of people to join your voice to.  But at some point in your life, perhaps you, like the eunuch, were searching for a place to belong and a song to sing…

There might not be anything in our text this morning about music, but we have talked about stories and bodies and hopes and dreams and who is welcome and what we want and all of those things have everything to do with singing.

As Colleen will share with us later this morning, music is powerful.  It calls us into being as a community.  It gives us a common language.  Singing takes our whole selves – mind, body, and soul.

Don Saliers, a United Methodist pastor and the Director of Sacred Music at Candler School of theology writes:  “through the practice of singing, the dispositions and beliefs expressed in the words of the hymns – gratitude, trust, sadness, joy, hope – had become knit into their bodies, as integral parts of the theology by which they lived.”

When we sing together, we are reminded that faith is about US not about me.  When we sing together, we are taught again and again about the faith in our music.    When we join our voices together in song, we are telling the world that we belong to God and telling God about this world that we care so deeply about. When we sing together, we are passing on the theology of our mothers and fathers to our children and our grandchildren.

Let us not be sorcerers who want to control and possess the power of God, singing by ourselves – or even worse, letting someone else sing for us while we sit back and watch.. but like the eunuch, let us humbly seek to join our voice with the song of faith that has been sung for so long.   Let us celebrate the faith we have found, and like Philip, not be afraid to pass it on.

Shake It Out… #gc2012

I’m not even sure there are words to describe the last 24 hours. 

My roommate and re-acquainted friend from our youth days, Jessica Ireland, was hit by a truck in an intersection last night.  She came out on the other side sore, scraped up, with deep scrapes on her foot that will take a while to heal… but with no broken bones.  She came back to the hotel late last night and some of us young adult delegates from Iowa kept her company with pizza and conversation and laughter until the wee hours of the morning.

With little sleep, but a heart full of gratitude that Jessica is okay… or at least will be with some time… we headed to conference.

Our agenda today dealt with sex, money, and power. Literally.

Human sexuality occupied most of our morning session… and I do mean most, because after we failed to pass legislation that claimed United Methodist people of faith disagree on the issue, a protest crossed the bar and occupied the space.  We were heading into the morning break, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.  Those of us who gathered shared communion because what else do you do when you feel so broken?  Where else do you turn? 

But as the conference returned from break, it became clear that those who were in the middle were not leaving.  I was back in my seat, but others refused to budge.  After the monitoring report in which our head of GCSRW took off her badge and prophetically helped us to see that all of us are children of God,  Bishop Coyner declared that the conference was unable to continue its business, he dismissed us for lunch (1.5 hours early), and declared that when we returned from lunch at 2pm that the plenary hall would be closed to all but delegates.

I’m going to just say it.  I am an ally of the GLBT community.  I have not always been a strong ally or advocate in the past because I feel it is my pastoral duty to care for all of my flock and to provide a safe space for people wherever they are and whatever they believe.  So, I’m not outspoken.  But my mother-in-law is a lesbian.  I have dear friends who are clergy and/or would like to be clergy who are out.  I have friends and mentors from my years in seminary and working at West End who are gay or lesbian or transgendered and have helped me to become a better Christian.  A good friend from my high school youth group came out to me as bisexual. I have congregation members who have GLBT sons or daughters or grandchildren or siblings. 

So as I watched my brothers and sisters in Christ in pain, I was heartbroken.  We had said once again that we can’t even agree to disagree about this issue. And I saw the faces of those I love and knew that I couldn’t stand by, I couldn’t leave the plenary space if they were there, singing their hearts out, around the communion table.  Not knowing if as a reserve delegate I would be allowed back in if I left for lunch, I sat in my chair and wept with friends.  I prayed with my Bishop. While I knew that I was not prepared or felt comfortable occupying the plenary space or facing potential arrest from the non-violent demonstration, I was determined not to be shut out of the room.  I prayed for a peaceful resolution for that moment… knowing that a peaceful resolution for our denomination would have to wait another four years or longer.

For three hours, those who were around the communion table sang and marched.  And as plenary gathered once again, it was announced all would be welcome back in the room.  And then our Bishops became our pastors.  They calmed our hearts.  They spoke peace.  It was not okay, and they spoke that truth.  Bishop Wenner said:  This General Conference and the polity of our church have hurt you.  She was real.  She was honest.  And we all listened.  And the protest ended and they marched out of the room holding one hand up in the sign of peace. 

Someone tweeted that nothing quiets a protest faster than a discussion of actuarial tables and within minutes, we were ankle deep in pension discussions. And then we talked about delegating the powers of general conference to another body and the petitions (amendments to the constitution) failed. And all day long, I kept looking for the voices of women and people of color and they were few and far between.  I’m not sure if we were tired or beat up or if we just couldn’t get a word in edgewise, but the entire afternoon felt very heavy…

When we came to worship this evening, we weren’t quite sure we wanted to worship.  We weren’t sure our hearts were in it.  But Marcia McFee did it again… the right words at the right time.  The right songs to stir our souls.  The right symbolic actions to bring us together as the body of Christ… and dear Lord, the right bishop to break open the word of God for us.  Bishop Kiesey’s words were like healing balm for my soul.  I was reminded that this work of two weeks is just that – long, hard, difficult work.  But it is not everything.  We are called to feed the lambs of God.  We are called to feed the sheep of Jesus’ flock.  And on Sunday I’m going home to be IN ministry.  To love the flock God has entrusted me with… to lead them… to feed them… to care for and cast nets wide in search of those people in my community who are desperate for God’s love.  None of this matters if we can’t leave this place and go and serve the ones Jesus loves.  That’s it.  Feed his sheep.  Simple. Succinct. So True.

As we closed, the Lake Junaluska Singers broke it down like no other.  A regular dance party broke out on the floor of general conference and we continued dancing until we had worked out all of the tension and stress and weariness of the day.   It was cleansing to let go.  It was holy to let the Spirit move us.  It was joy in the midst of suffering, kindom fellowship in the midst of the broken world. 

My friend, Sarah, told me tonight that there is a reason dancing is a part of a purging ritual in so many cultures.  We can’t carry that pain with us everywhere.  We have to shake it off.  We have to dance it out.  We have to let wild abandon come over us so that we can breathe deeply, replenish our souls, and start over again tomorrow.

Lord have mercy.