Tuesday, November 20, 2007

To the Presbyterian Layman

Dear Friends,

I'm in my 37th year of ministry within the PCUSA and feel a confidence and hope greater than I've known in 25 years.

But after reading the latest Layman (which I've read for years), I'm inclined to suggest that Jesus just isn't real for us and our faith but an exercise in delusion - because we can't love one another as He loves us; it seems we can only love our own kind, and even that, at times, appears to be a stretch.

Are we any different than the local condo association squabbling over someone's flowerpots on the front walk?

Some will cry out: But the issues are so important! It's more than flowerpots.

Granted, but the greatest issue is love ... is that not what Paul wrote to the troubled Corinthian community? A community divided by the spirit of one-upmanship?

Until we can walk arm-in-arm, our witness to Christ is compromised. Cling to our confessions, stand on our version of the truth, site passages and quote authors, but our lack of love for one another reveals the breakdown of our inner character and belies our claims of salvation. In an anxious nation, increasingly isolated and angry, our own example is anything but "salt of the earth" and "light of the world."

I know the matters that divide us are serious, but I wonder if our own pride of claiming the high moral ground intensifies and distorts the reality. What will any of us say when we stand before Jesus with these terrible scars on our soul? That I believed rightly in the propositions of faith? That I picked out the gnat in the tea and swallowed a camel called pride? That I sang the name of Jesus even as I scathingly denounced sisters and brothers who also claim His precious name?

If love is "the greatest of these," then we have some work ahead of us. Wasn't it our Lord who asked, "What value is there in loving those who love you?"

I know that Paul and Barnabas separated, but is that not attributable to sin? In spite of Paul’s brilliant faithfulness, was he not "chief of sinners" in his own words?

Well, not much more to be said ... I guess the Lord of the Church will sort it all out, but I think those who are willing to pick up their marbles and play in someone else's backyard will find, in time, the mud there is just as muddy.

The snake is never in the grass, but in our heart.

With joy and hope, because Jesus remains Lord.

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