Are We Serious?

This devotion was written with the Gospel reading for this Sunday, October 18, 2009 in mind: Mark 10:35-45, which can be found here.

A couple of weeks ago a group of ELCA Lutherans met in Indiana to discuss their reactions to the church assembly decisions about rostered leaders in same-sex relationships. They call themselves the Lutheran CORE—and they have existed for the past few years, giving witness to their opposition to various issues within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

As a church, we are in a gray area right now—the voters have voted, but no policy changes have been enacted. And as the CORE discussed their fears and concerns, voiced their opinions and even cracked jokes at the expense of those who led the August assembly, these individuals—good and sincere people of faith–began to make plans that include, perhaps, leaving the fellowship of the ELCA. In this meeting, one person sat. The ELCA’s Director for Congregational Mission, former Bishop Steve Bouman. I’ve met Pastor Bouman, and in fact he will soon be speaking to our regional theological conference next month.

Pastor Bouman was not permitted to speak at the CORE meeting in Indiana, but he did write an open letter to the group of those contemplating leaving. And in the letter, he spoke of mission. Not just a mission to disagree, or a mission of righteous anger, not a mission to complain, or a mission to chide—but a mission beyond the disagreement. Are you serious about mission? he asked. If that is done separately or together in this church we call the ELCA—no one yet knows. But Bouman’s question struck me—are you serious about mission? For regardless of one’s opinions on the assembly decisions, are we serious about the mission Jesus calls us to—calls us ALL to—to be servants? Do we proclaim that the crucifixion of Jesus ransomed not just those of like mind, but the masses, who happen to be sinners, every one?

microscopic view-red blood cells

microscopic view-red blood cells

When someone takes issue with something in the church—and it can be anything or everything, for there are plenty of faults in any church, local and national. When someone takes issue with something in the church, watch what happens next. After the “But it is not so among you” (Mark 10:43), what is there? Is there a call to life, forgiveness, and humble service? For you can be certain that is where Jesus is. And our identity, which we labor so long to secure, which we may arrange and re-arrange in denominations and local congregations, our identity always centers in this truth: captive to sin, but now, redeemed. Ransomed. And set free by the blood of Jesus Christ.

On a mission to serve, not be served. To offer, not lord over. To love, not belittle. To be mature in faith, grounded in an identity that was not earned, but given in sacrificial blood. Thanks be to such a God!

Lord God, as we face questions of the day, give us confidence in your promises, and humility in our demeanor. Amen.

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