There are moments, events, in our lives that shape us, that define us. In those moments God provides the opportunity for us to put thoughts or words into practice and action. Such a moment came for me in the first months of 2010.
2009 was the year of the vote. In August 2009, the ELCA churchwide assembly voted on the sexuality statement which allowed a member of a same-sex couple to be a pastor of a congregation. This decision sent shockwaves throughout the ELCA and throughout our synod in particular.
At the time, Lynne, Jacob and I were members at St. Paul, Sterling. It seemed St. Paul would be get through the tsunami by having two information meetings in the fall. But then, a week or so after the talks, a petition to leave the ELCA surfaced at church. By Christmas 2009, that petition had enough support to invite a vote.
What I saw happen over January and February 2010 was disheartening. I saw a congregation tear itself apart. I witnessed people who said they were Christian ramping up tension and anger within a congregation all in the name of righteous indignation. Letters and postcards were sent out encouraging active and inactive alike to come out and vote. The congregation quickly fractured into an us vs. them situation.
So how would I vote? I could see both sides, but needed to make decision. What was the right thing to do? Two principles shaped my decision that day. Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you: love one another as I have loved you.” This command supersedes all other commands in my book. And how did Jesus love? Who did Jesus love? That commandment is my first principle. My second principle flows from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. He writes that the Church is called into the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5) - bringing people together in the name of God’s peace, God’s Shalom. So which side fostered God’s Spirit of peace and reconciliation? That day, my vote was a vote, not for a social issue, but for the side which fostered that Spirit, the Spirit which promotes peace and reconciliation. And that day, St. Paul stayed in the ELCA… by one vote.
There are moments in our lives that shape us and that define us. In those moments God speaks through his Spirit to give us counsel and direction. Such a moment came for me in the first months of 2010....
Questions: So what are the moments that have shaped your life? How was God involved? What are the basic principles you hold? Are you willing to stand up for something even though the majority believe otherwise? Have you ever “walked to the beat of a different drummer?” In the end, was it worth going against the group? Why or why not?