In Part 1 of this blog entry I told about several good things happening at Faith these days. However, I was also telling you about my friends that are really wrestling with what has happened at Faith and where Faith is going.
Bad things have happened at Faith. Things that have been done by people still at Faith. Things that were allowed to happen by more people still at Faith. There is no escaping this. My friends, and I, and many of us struggle with many questions.
"How many times are we to forgive our brother (or sister)? Jesus' answer is understood to mean indefinitely....as many times as they sin against you. What happens when we let the sun go down on our anger? (in other words we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, work it out, let it go) We give the devil a foothold....each time."
"What is THE commandment Jesus gave us? To love each other like he loves us and gave his life for us... The kind of love defined in 1 Corinthians 13."
How can we have missed that we failed this commandment? Why is it so hard to follow this commandment? How do we come back together as Christians when we know we have sinned? How can we come back together as Christians with people that don't know they've sinned? How do we deal with our feelings of injustice and that sin must be punished? How do we recognize, confess, and deal with our sinfulness?
My friend found the verses that encapsulate the problem and the answer; Galatians 5:19-23. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy...I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
The first thing that popped in my head as I was reading my friend's note was the parable of the sower. Read Matthew 13, yes the whole thing. I did and I believe I will be reading it a number of times now.
Here is where I am now in finding my way through all this. After I found out Steve was leaving I was angry. But the Spirit quickly put me in the place where the only thing I could do was to forgive and forget the past, wipe the slate clean and hand it to God. That meant forgetting the hurts of the past and not seeking punishment or retribution. A good parent knows you cannot punish a child for something that happened two weeks ago. BUT that does not mean ignoring new transgressions! So I promised myself to try to address things as they happen. This keeps me from imagining or embellishing things in the past or listening to rumors. I am trying to focus on now and moving forward.
Reading my friend's note and having those parables placed in my head I understand much clearer. Faith is God's garden. It is our job to tend the garden. But God is still the one in charge. There are good patches and bad patches and patches that need cultivation. I've been all three! There are also weeds in the garden, but it is not for us, at this time, to pull them up and risk the budding plants (As seen in Part 1 of this blog entry). Jesus tells us in Mathew 13 that the weeds will not hear the Word and will remain weeds. God will take care of that in his time.
BUT, the gardener in me says, if one of those weeds pops up a seed head above the other plants it's time to take care of it; before it can spread. But how? My friend said it best…
"Loving each other doesn't mean we only speak sweetly to each other saying only "nice" things. Speaking the truth in love can be hard to say and hard to hear, but it's the attitude of the heart that is important when we speak the truth in love. […] We love because God first loved us so it makes sense to me that our focus needs to be on loving and knowing God more. As we know God better, we learn how to love and we are filled with GOD'S LOVE which is different from human love. God's love is 1 Corinthians 13 love. It is a love that is sacrificial, unconditional, dying to self, submitting to God and one another. That is the love we are to extend to one another. Bible study, fellowship, and worship are good things to encourage this."
I have a couple more comments to the Session on life at Faith these days before I finish. I encourage the Session to actively watch for the seed heads and deal with them in a loving and timely manner. I also applaud the Session's efforts in dealing with our budget shortfall in a timely manner. Finally I encourage the Session to understand that the budget is not the problem, it's a symptom. The problem is our spiritual budget. It is easy to get distracted by the easier problem of the money budget but we have a lot of folks hurting and confused and in need of spiritual guidance through these times.
As my friend pointed out; "We've heard excellent, pointed, sermons from Warner, Bob, and Kerry [and Mel] but I haven't felt the pall lift over my heart and I think I am not alone. I think in order to heal from this grief we're in, we need an opportunity to make an active corporate response." I agree, but I don't think we're there yet, and it may be awhile.
Agape, (As Rev. Grigsby would say.)
I hope my friend doesn't mind my quoting much of their note. My friend was worried about presenting these things. I'll take the heat.