Friday, September 13
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will ﬁnd me; if you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
Facing change is uncomfortable, even when we know it is for the best. Children want the freedom of maturity but dislike the responsibility that comes with it. Parents both celebrate and grieve when children grow up and leave home. Retirement is a bittersweet experience for almost everyone.
Likewise, change is hard — even when we are conﬁdent it is God calling us forward to a new place! Rarely does God appear to the faithful in the Bible to say “you are doing great. Keep up the good work!” If encounters with God in scripture are any indication, when we hear a divine voice in a burning bush or witness an angel in the skies above, we should prepare for God to instruct us to do something diﬀerent or new.
God is always calling us forward because God loves us and desires us to grow. So it should not shock us when we ﬁnd ourselves being led by the Spirit into situations we would otherwise avoid. And, as much as we appreciate the Christ-like beauty of self-sacriﬁce, serving others, and loving our enemies, all of us hesitate to embrace those sort of “opportunities.” Faith is allowing the Spirit to lead, letting go of whatever holds us back from following, and trusting God to bring “holy discomfort,” the increasing awareness of something within us or in the world that needs to change.
Yes, change is hard, but what often goes unsaid is that simply exploring the possibility of change is hard. If the virtue of constancy means living in the tension of celebrating tradition and remaining open to God leading us to change, then the Church is never able to completely rest on our laurels. We must maintain the sort of congregational rhythm which seeks to explore new ideas and ask if God wants us to incorporate them. In short, in order to be led by the Spirit, we must be willing to be uncomfortable.
As Father Henri Nouwen once said,
Deep silence leads us to realize that prayer is, above all, acceptance. When we pray, we are standing with our hands open to the world. We know that God will become known to us in the nature around us, in people we meet, and into situations we run into.
So, constancy means not only trusting that God will be with us in the midst of change, no matter what we face, but it also celebrates that God is also with us in those muddled times when we can’t decide which path to take on the road ahead. For instance, while the last forty years have been increasingly diﬃcult in the United Methodist Church as we have struggled with questions surrounding human sexuality, ordination of LGBTQ persons, and same-sex marriage, we rejoice that the Spirit of God has not abandoned us.
As we pointed out in the introduction to this study, changes that have taken place in our culture lead to questions of change in the church. We trust that God’s grace is powerful enough to sustain us over the next years as the United Methodist Church and our congregation discusses the role of human sexuality.
• Do you believe a person’s sexuality should limit their ability to participate in the life of the church and ministry? What is the basis for this belief?
• How do heterosexuals feel their sexuality aﬀects their spirituality, if at all?
• How does our theological and biblical heritage of ordaining women (a stand several other denominations still feel is “unbiblical”) inﬂuence this situation?
• What does our tradition teach us about the role of marriage in the church?
• What led the church to break away from the practice of not remarrying those who are divorced?
• What does our experience of gays and lesbians teach us about their role in our community?
• Should heterosexual persons trust their Christian LGBTQ brothers and sisters’ descriptions of their sexuality as part of their God-given identity? Why or why not?