Worship this morning at the NEXT Conference was wonderful, and not only because my good friend Brian Ellison preached one heck of a sermon. We also sang two hymns I love.
I recognize not everyone gets excited by good hymns, sung well, in the midst of people one loves. But I sure do.
Many people commented on the power of the second of the two hymns, Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling, which was sung beautifully, in harmony, after Brian’s prophetic sermon (I will post a link to the sermon when I find one).
The hymn that choked me up, however, was “The Church’s One Foundation”.
Today was a sacred day for that particular hymn, because possibly tonight, but certainly in the coming days, the 86th “yes” vote by a presbytery on the proposed amendment (14F) to the Book of Order will be cast and the PCUSA will have marriage equality. (A simple majority of the presbyteries is needed to change the Book of Order. Half is 85. Majority is 86).
And while I have been working for this change, and while I will celebrate it, I also recognize that this good news is not bigger than the Good News that “the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord”.
I am grateful to serve a church that is voting to make this change, giving room for congregations, like the one I serve, to more fully live into the inclusion we feel called to by Christ, allowing us to celebrate same gender marriages in our sanctuaries.
I am also grateful to serve a church that will not compel congregations, who understand the Gospel differently on this topic, to participate in same gender marriage.
The verse of the hymn that spoke most powerfully to me today was this third verse:
Though with a scornful wonder
The world sees her oppressed
By schisms rent asunder
By heresies distressed
Yet saints their watch are keeping
Their cry goes up, “how long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song.
I recognize both sides of the church see different truth in that verse. For some, our work toward inclusion is heading toward heresy. For others, our push toward inclusion is the “morn of song”. And we all pause and note we have been “rent asunder”, no matter how we view the schism-ing.
The hymn reminds us the church, for better and worse, is Christ’s new creation, in the waters of baptism and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It is in the sacraments, and in Christ’s work of salvation that we are united. And our unity is about so much more than how we feel on this one issue.
I have friends (and family) on the other side of this one issue. I am grateful for their presence in my life, for their witness of where they see God calling the church, and for their willingness to call me friend and colleague. They bring blessing to my life. Together, in our diversity, we witness to the depth and width and height of God’s love, mercy, and compassion. I pray they will continue to know, deeply know, their presence in this denomination matters.
Whether we celebrate this pending change or worry about it’s implications, my prayer is we will rest securely in the knowledge that our one foundation is Jesus Christ, our Lord.