I enter this text as a vegetarian. My spouse, whom I typically adore and highly respect, is an omnivore—an eater of all foods. For almost thirty years we’ve practiced living, hosting, cooking, praying, and raising children together. We’ve had to practice Paul’s challenge of nonjudgmental welcome to each other around our diets as well as our differences in gender, race, and culture.
At the time of this writing, The United Methodist Church is struggling mightily in excruciating ways about how or if to welcome sisters and brothers of varied sexual orientations into different parts of the life of the church. Judgment abounds amid the disagreement. In the ruckus and heartbreak it’s hard to hear Paul’s and Jesus’ calls and prayers for radical welcome of one another—mutual upbuilding and righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17, 19) and unity (see John 17:20-21).
So I return to lessons I’m still learning in our small family. Outrage and shock have at times flashed through me at the contrasting ways my spouse and I maneuver and view life with our different races, genders, histories, and more. More often I have been irritated by tiny misunderstandings and perceived minute acts of disrespect. That’s when an observant friend who lost her cherished spouse quietly reminds me, “Some things are more important than being right.” Really!
Perhaps her point is Paul’s as well. So I turn gratefully to welcome my beloved and the life we share. I am grateful that our imperfect unity in some way repairs the story we pass on to our children and offers welcome in a world marked by acts of terror, destruction, and separation.
Unifying God, may we practice small unconditional welcomes until we gather as one united community—vegetarian and omnivores alike!—around your feast table. Amen.
Again this week, Exodus tells a story about Moses that is retold in the psalm. The angel of the Lord protects the Israelites and allows them to cross the sea on dry ground, but their enemies are swept away. The psalmist recalls this glorious event. The forces of nature tremble and bow before the presence of God, and the people are delivered. Paul recognizes that there are matters of personal preference or conscience that are not hard and fast rules. Some will feel freedom in areas that others do not, and we are not to judge each other for these differences. Jesus tells a parable in Matthew that highlights the danger of hypocrisy. We who have been forgiven so generously by God have no right to judge others for minor offenses.
Read Exodus 14:19-31. When has the path of faith seemed risky? How have you trusted God and others’ wisdom along the way?
Read Psalm 114. How do you listen and act to repair the story of God’s love for the whole world?
Read Romans 14:1-12. When have you recognized something as more important than your being right? How has that recognition shaped your faith?
Read Matthew 18:21-35. How do you recognize your own wounds—or those you have inflicted on others—in this parable? How might this parable help you to repair these wounds or the relationships attached to the wounds?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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