Returning from the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis last month there was very little hullabaloo around St. Luke’s. Yes, we’d heard that the assembly had voted to allow “structured flexibility” on matters related to the rostering of LGBT clergy in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-sex relationships” (which I’ve taken to calling “palms”), and blessing the relationships of people in palms (it gets funnier every time you say it), but these changes in denominational policy matched values and practices we’d committed to here years ago.
Given our own history and experience, it may be difficult for us understand the anger and anxiety of the many Lutherans gathered outside Indianapolis today and tomorrow for a conference to discuss a collective response by those who feel betrayed by the denomination’s decision to change longstanding policies and practices with regard to human sexuality. Many are calling for a withholding of funds from the ELCA, others are going so far as to call for a division in the church and a reorganizing of North American Lutheranism.
In a highly politicized climate like this it would be easy to make disparaging remarks about those brothers and sisters who don’t share our perspective. It might even be expected that we would criticize their way of practicing their faith – cast aspersions on their Christian credentials. We have certainly been on the receiving end of that kind of communication.
The texts assigned for this Sunday leave no room however for that kind of behavior. Upon encountering a healer performing miracles in Jesus name, but not a part of their community, the disciples try to get Jesus on their side in silencing the rogue preacher, but he refuses (Mark 9:38-41). It recalls the passage we hear from Numbers where Joshua tries to get Moses to silence a pair of prophets whom Moses had not called to ministry. His response: “would that all the Lord’s people were prophets” (Numbers 11:29). Instead of directing our speech against each other, James encourages us to “confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that [we] might be healed” (James 5:16).
God has called each of us into service, to tend to the world’s needs and injuries with our own particular gifts and talents – our own particular flavor. We have a perspective, a point-of-view, that is the result of the journey upon which God has been guiding us; a journey that has seasoned us, even made us salty. We don’t need to apologize for our flavor, and we don’t need to give it up. Instead we are encouraged to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50).