For the most part, today’s society is more sophisticated and with more access to education than before, at least for the main stream of society. Even within Christian circles, faith is discussed and experienced in many ways; and the sad part of it is that these discussions and experiences are based in things that we do not agree on. These disagreements have cost the Church emotional, spiritual, financial and human wealth including broken relationships, separations and divisions. In my view, most of these divergences are rather institutional, therefore and ironically, it has to do more with covenants previously enshrined around table discussions.
We as denomination are not immune to this phenomenon.
We have invested infinite resources of all kind in things that we do not agree on and instead have departed from other issues of church life that are as important as the current polarization. Matters like and not limited to evangelism, discipleship, missions-church planting, social justice and access to education seemed to be set aside like they are not equally important and worthy of our time, passion and resources.
Huge investments of all kinds are being made to “agree” upon one issue that has been singled out from a more complex reality and understanding, tearing apart the church even more. That is to say, that all matters of church life are equally important and worthwhile of all kinds of investments. In turn, this also means that personal agendas are to be put aside and continue engaging in the business of the kingdom of God and not our own.
Lately, my cup has been filled with different flavors and mixed emotions due to the unending polarization of both the nation and my own denomination, MC USA.
By now, the virtual and media world have disseminated the latest news about KC 15. The sharing reflects mixed emotions, opinions and positions of all kinds. Personally, my coffee quota for 2015 has been met due to the many conversations post-convention. In spite of our differences, I have to affirm that my chats have shown equal respect and love for one another.
It is in the midst of this situation, I want to find the courage and the strength to refuse to contribute the perpetuation of the vicious cycle of single out an issue in the current polarization that has denominated us for the most part.
With this, I am not saying that the current conversations are not important. I want to believe that we need to engage other business of the church with same passion, energy and equally investment, but again, and who am I to be considered and to be heard?
Perhaps, we have lost our focus in other church issues causing us to deviate from our missional spirituality or what is left of it. I also understand as much as I am aware of, that I am just “the Hispanic” in the vast ocean of the dominant stream; I am part of the voiceless group. Yet, I have prayed, thought and reflected in the many issues of church life as much as many of you had. In spite of that, my prayer and the desire of my heart pushes me to wanting to hear the caring whispers of Christ’s Spirit, just like many people in our pews.
As I continue my personal journey with “Agreeing and disagreeing” “giving and receiving counsel” within my own conference and denomination, I have found the winds of the Spirit also blowing in the lives, stories and experiences of those individuals that I encounter.
Stories like the one I experienced at the laundromat. Where I found this individual wanting to know more about the Bible in response to his personal following of Jesus. “I would like to study the Bible, I know this is in my heart. The sad part of this is that I don’t know how to do it? To top it off, I don’t find the necessary help for it.” This heartily expression, filled my heart with mixed emotions.
On one hand, I was joyful to hear such expression from a person whose heart is for God. At the same time, I felt challenged and compelled to offer help in finding ways to study the Bible.
In all honesty, I need to confess that I was tempted to share the latest developments within MC USA and its different resolutions but the convicting and gentle whisper of the Spirit in my ear, guided me to allow this individual to a personal experience with the resurrected Christ revealed through Scripture. After all, it was not about my personal hermeneutics of the text, the end-game of Christ’ Spirit was for me to move away from this individual’s personal interaction and experience with the Bible. My intended job was to facilitate such experience!
As the conversation continued, I discovered that Oscar wants to study the Bible in order to feed his soul and in response to this burning calling to share God’s Word with those around him. His work schedule and long hours impedes him to fulfill his dreams and desires, proper of a hungry heart for Christ if you ask me!
I wonder if this was what the disciples on the way to Emmaus felt when they walked in the midst of dusty and arid roads; wanting to know and understand more the latest events in Jerusalem. Then, Jesus the Living Word of God made himself known and revealed to these hungry souls. It was on their own terms and conditions that Jesus met them and from there on their transformational process continued.
In order to respond to Oscar’s longing for God, we agreed and committed to meet on Wednesday mornings for Bible studying. The gathering and hosting place is the Laundromat where Café por la Paz (Peace Coffee) took place for three months and where Oscar works. We have the approval and consent of the Laundromat management to meet there. Without a doubt, Oscar and I heard the Holy Spirit whispering in our ears and hearts.
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep (John 21:17 NRSV)
We might still be very polarized in many matters, but perhaps we could consider God’s mission and the sharing of Jesus’ story as a common ground. As local churches, conference and denomination (including the agencies) I wonder how we are feeding Jesus’ sheep.
What is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it?
Friends, how are we listening to the whispers of the Spirit?