help us accept each other

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe
we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

I struggled with going to church yesterday.  It was snowy and cold and I was so very tired.  It seemed like it was SO MUCH work getting everyone in the car with all the whining and meltdowns and just…BLAH.  Charlie was going to miss his morning nap and Eddie was going to be, well, Eddie.

We had to go though because we were scheduled to usher.  It’s not like no one would notice if we didn’t come.  I mean, I am sure everyone is smart enough, they could have found their own seat, but our names were in the bulletin, it was our responsibility.

We went, of course, and I am so very glad.

We have a very traditional service.  We have things like “The Prayer of Confession” and “The Assurance of Forgiveness” and “The Anthem”.  We have “liturgists” and we are “commissioned” at the end of the service.

Our church is currently between pastors and so we are in a “transition” phase.  I haven’t been part of the team that meets, but I know this: we are divided on how we want our worship to be, traditional (like it always has been) or contemporary.  The service today was to bring to light and to make the congregation think about this polarizing that is happening.

And while I knew in my head this was the reason it was being presented to us, I couldn’t help my heart from hearing another message.

Teach us, O Lord, your lessons, as in our daily life
we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people, for all not just for some,
to love them as we find them or as they may be come.

Recently I have started to dip my toe back into the faith of my childhood.

I have always had some level of faith. Even at the height of my questioning, I somehow always believe there was something bigger than me…bigger than all of us. I can’t explain it…which is weird because I am very much a science and facts kind of person.  I can only say I believe it.

I am still very young in this new me.  I would say I have always been a Christian, but recently–within the last year–I have decided (due to a lot of prodding, I believe, by God) that I need to do more than just say I am, but not attend church, not explore the MILLIONS of questions I have, not talk about it.

I have some serious questions and doubts.  There is no question about that.  Such doubts, that I am sure it would make my mom sad and some of my family very angry that I dare to question certain things.  But I can’t help it.  And I don’t think God is mad about it, either.

With all this new thirst for answers…or at least peace that the questions can’t be answered…people have really felt the need to “minister” to me.  I find it so strange that as someone who knows more Bible stories than the average person, who can pick up more Biblical allusions than most in literature and culture, and who can cite historical facts about Biblical times, people still feel like I need “saving”…even though I have said I am saved.

The truth is, they want me to be saved “correctly”, meaning they want me to be saved the way the believe is right.  Their way.

Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved
in living situations to do the truth in love;
to practice your acceptance until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness and laughter’s healing art.

The reading today that our pastor used for the launching pad of her sermon was 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11. The passage is about the spiritual gifts God gives everyone.  I have heard this thousands of times (and it always confirms that God gave me the gift of teaching), but today, I picked up something different.

Today she read and focused on the part that goes like this: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit” (4) and the rest of the verses around it that talk about how all praise and gifts come for the Lord.  The diversity of all is God-made.  She was using it to show us that however we worship is from God and it’s not wrong if it’s from God.

I took it a step further. I heard her say this, “The only sin Jesus mentions as being unforgivable is that of blasphemy.  Blasphemy is when you say something from God is wrong.  We come dangerously close to this all the time.”

Again, she was speaking of how we worship.  But I thought broader.  ALL PEOPLE are of God.  To pick and choose who you deem “acceptable” then is blasphemy.

Jesus did not just hang out with the rich, “righteous” people.  Quite the opposite.   He put himself among the “least of these,” the people society wanted to pretend didn’t exist.  He didn’t care about political views or race or ethnicity.  He didn’t care about gender or social status.  All people are God’s children.  ALL OF THEM.

He didn’t just tolerate people who were different than him; he accepted them.

We are told not to just tolerate, but to accept.  Otherwise? We are dancing on the verge of blasphemy.

Just because someone does something differently than you do, doesn’t make it wrong as long as it comes from a place of love and light.

Think about that. I did.  It’s not just how we are “saved” or how we worship. It’s not just about “church stuff”.

It’s about how we choose to parent.  What lifestyle we have.  Where we choose to live.  Who we support politically.  What views and beliefs we hold. Who we call our family. How we spend our money.  How we run our business. Who we choose as friends. How we spend our free time.

The list goes on.

If the choices are made for the right reasons? They are not wrong. Even if they are different than your choices.

Lord, for today’s encounters with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance, for righteousness and bread,
we need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding on:
renew us with your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one!

I almost stood up and yelled out, “AMEN, SISTA!” when she was done. But instead I smiled because it was exactly what I needed to hear.

It was exactly what has been on my heart.

I know I fail at this, if not out loud, in my head and heart.  I am working on it, and my prayer is that the rest of the world will work on it too.

*************

*Lyrics from “Help Us Accept Each Other”. which we sang at the close of church. emphasis added by me.

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