Monday, August 22, 2011

Do not be conformed to this world

And George  is still there as I open the doors this morning. I’m in too much pain to deal with this as I walk (Limp? Shuffle?) down  the street to pick up the bulletins. When I get back, people are arriving, Luis and Alma, Hope, Samantha, James, Marsha, Arcadia, Stephen, Lilly...I reached out, they all               showed up and came through. That’s how it’s supposed to be. And Andre is sitting at the piano.
Today I’m thinking about Romans 12: 1-8 and what it means to not be conformed to the world. These are tough questions. It depends from whose point of view you are looking at this. For example, those in ther church who have opposed opening up ordination for lgbtq people say that those of us who fought for that were conforming ourselves to the world, not scripture...
What dos it mean? For many of us here, conforming is an impossibiity. Because of who we are, our color, our cuture, our language, orientation, economic situation,  it’s not possible to join the elite. BUT, the way of the world is not’s complex...
It begins with confession. Not admitting our faults and shortcomings to God, but saying out loud what we truly believe like Peter's confession that Jesus was the Christ. (Matthew 16: 13-20)
Sometimes the church has been a critic of the world, a witness like in the 1930‘s, the German Confessing Church over against the German Christian Movement when the government equated following the Nazi  regime with Christianity and the majority of the church went along. Bohoeffer, Niemoller, others made their confession that their only true authority was Jesus. In that day and time a politically radical statement to make which would cost those who made it.
Following in that tradition, confessions like the Accra Confession from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Ghana and the Belhar Confesson in South Africa carried that theme forward into new days. But putting these words into action is not simple.
Argentine pastor Roberto Jordan, one of the drafters of the Accra Confession and a consultant for WARC’s Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth Project, was speaking at the 2007 Witherspoon Conference of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He said:

“The people of the South need you to stand up to the powers of the time and say ‘no’ when the world is presented as an enemy simply to support privileges gained at the expense of the rest of the world.

“Be suspicious of the power structure today but don’t withdraw – participate, learn, get involved, commit to change even if it means less comfort for some. And vote when you have elections. Be informed of the issues that are left out of the political debates and do your best to include them.

“The part of the world which insisted on the need for a statement such as the Accra Confession expects from the churches and the Christian women and men of the North to choose to be part of a new way of being church and being Christian,” Jordan said. 
Participate...that’s the hard part when withdrawal seems so much simpler and pure. But such is not our, the Reformed tradition.
I remember taking part in a discussion of Accra held in Berlin. In Martin Niemoller’s very house. With surviving members of the Confessing Church and their children. Trying to discern the meaning of their confession, the Barmen Declararation, for our own day and time. My friends were shocked to learn that in the PCUSA, a reactionary group of pastors and churches had declared itself to be the Confessing Church Movement, implying that those of us on the progressive side were the equivalent of German Christians. That they were the true descendants, the authentic expression of the Confessing Church.
Sometimes church has taken a leading postion. In the US Civil Rights movement, the anti-Vietnam and anti-nuclear proliferation peace movements, in the 1980‘s movement to resist the US poicy in Central America. But just as many times the church has dragged behind, with regards to women and the vote, lgbtq inclusion and orientation, etc...Even the US military was ahead of us on the lgbtq inclusion issue. And state governments are ahead of us on the marriage equality issue.   And we refuse to take responsibility for what our theology has sanctioned in the secular world against lgbtq people. Including violence. 
So who do you work with? And how? 
Paul says: but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. That’s what we’re after...transformation. How?
I love the story of the Hebrew midwives in today’s lesson from Exodus. (1:8-2:10) The examples of Shiprah and Puah how they refused to cooperate with the powers of domination. Refused to take the lives of male children. How they resisted with cleverness and even humor.
The reaity is here we need different people playing different roles....honoring the gifts,the unique gifts that each has ...believing that we can call forth those indivual gifts, insights, wisdom, action into a collective expression of faithfulness.
As Paul says, For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. 
Yes, even cheerfulness.
It’s not easy, it’s not clear. And as Reformed Christians, even when we have come together and made a decision, set a strategy, moved forward with passion, we live with the reality that we could be wrong. But that is our call. Now and always.
We pass the plate. Andre sings On Christ the solid rock I stand. And we all sing I’m going to live so God can use me. Say our alleluia! and amen!
Taking a break I see that George has left. James spoke with him two hours yesterday. And Luis today. For me its a tough question. The rule is no sleeping on the steps during the day. But he’s not sleeping. But he’s virtually camping out. Not easy. But gone for now. 
The Session discusses Christian and his Melting Pot Orchestra. The boiler crisis. Letter to Councilmember Brewer. Possible necessity of having to sell things. Of course, some want to sell nothing. Time grows short....
The Dark Lady Players arrive for rehearsal. 
Dark Lady Players in Rehearsal

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