I spoke at a gathering sponsored by Methodist women recently and as usual prayed the evening before and the morning of for preparation of hearts and minds and for the Lord to lead me in the preparation and presentation.
In the morning I read the readings assigned in the RCL for the Morning Reading. One of the readings was about the parts of the body all needing each other and how no part can say they don’t need the other. I was compelled to share this reading that morning. Unity in the body of Christ is so very important. We are, regardless of denomination, one body of Christ. After the presentation we shared Communion and while speaking with women after the presentation I was both surprised and honored to discover I had been in the company of women from Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, Assembly, ELCA and WELS churches.
When we focus on the life of Jesus Christ, minor doctrines fade away and God’s love shines brightly.
The mixture of people in attendance reminded me of an experience I had while attending The School of Evangelism many years ago. I spent a full week at a Seminary where the students were mostly clergy and many were clergy in the process of leaving one denomination and switching to another, or who had been raised in one denomination, failed the discernment process in that particular denomination and were ordained in another denomination. There were Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican and Episcopal clergy in attendance. The only non-clergy persons were me and 1 or 2 spouses of the clergy. I was encouraged to attend the course by the then Sr. Warden of the church and I still thank God for Bill and his encouragement. He saw a gift in me that I hadn’t recognized, a love for the church and God’s people in the church and outside of the church.
We are indeed, one body – each part has a different way of functioning externally and sometimes people get caught up in arguing which denomination has ‘it right’ – but when we remember that each denomination is called to have the same heart and mind of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church eternally, then we will remember how important it is to love each other in spite of some differences in sacramental rites and beliefs – wine, grape juice – or neither/ wafers – substantial bread / infant and/or adult baptism. Sacramental rites are outward expressions of inward grace. That is what God is most concerned about – our inward grace because the more of that that we have, the more outwardly graceful we become and treat ourselves and each other.
Jesus Christ did not get hung up matters of tradition – he was caught up in proclaiming the love and grace of God for all people no matter what their tradition or position in society was. I believe we are called to be like him today – to open our hearts and minds to each other and when we do that – our church doors will open and the altar rails will also be open to more people, regardless of tradition.
When we break bread together in Word and Sacrament it is truly a blessed day! I might add it was also made beautiful in singing together the Love song – lyrics and melody included in the book.
God gave His Son to the whole world and Jesus died for the whole world but the story doesn’t stop with his death – it begins anew with his resurrection and continues beyond the Ascension, the story and His Life continues on through all who believe and receive His Life through the forgiveness of sin.
Lord, keep leading your church in this generation through the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through all people. AMEN