Sunday, June 26, 2005

The sort of church I attend

I had missed attending church for the past couple of Sundays, so I thought I'd stop backsliding and attend this morning. As it turned out, I could not have picked a better Sunday to return. Long-time readers know that I am a moderate-to-liberal Lutheran and that, as the post I linked to should show, I firmly believe that the church is a more effective--and more Godly--instrument for betterment and justice when it doesn't align itself with politicians but with principles. This morning's service reminded me--actually, more like "reawakened" me--to the humbleness and, yes, the power inherent in such a position.
One member of our church is very well known in this state, but his sort of fame isn't something he's exactly sought. He is one of only 2 or 3 doctors in Kansas who is willing to perform late-term abortions. His clinics have been picketed. He and his family have received death threats and curses from the pulpits of other churches. Our church has been picketed on Sunday mornings as well. And on those Sundays, we'd offer prayers for those who would picket us as well as for ALL members of our congregation. That's the sort of church I attend.
I tell you all this because of what our pastor said happened at the evening service yesterday: he said that among the 50 or so who attended was someone no one else recognized. After the service, he was warmly greeted by several members of the congregation. In the conversation, it came out that this man was a plant, sent by some organization (our pastor didn't say) to take pictures during Communion of the doctor I'd mentioned.
It struck me, as I listened to all this, that I didn't know what our pastor's views on abortion are, let alone late-term abortions. I certainly don't believe that every member of the congregation is pro-choice or, even if they are, that they approve of what this doctor does. But just now, none of that mattered: this person had intruded not just on the doctor's right to worship but also on our right--indeed, our duty as Christians--to accept any and all who come to worship. How easy it would be to post a list of political positions at the door, ask arrivals to read it, and ask them to turn and head back to their cars if they happened not to hold those positions. I would dearly love to cherry-pick from my sins of omission and comission, too, set them on a sliding scale, say that some matter more than others and thus exclude Certain Someones from being among the rest of us. And here's the final thing I realized today: that the "Religious Right" only APPEARS to be inflexible in its positions (I almost said "theology," but they're really politics in the Lamb's clothing). This is why the R. R. sees fit to condemn abortion, say, but not speak out against the pursuit of excessive wealth or the abuses of workers. So: How about this for inflexible: that ALL have sinned and fall short in the sight of God. By that standard, no one would be allowed in any house of worship, anywhere.
But we are, or should be, no matter our particular circumstances. Is that not the harder row to how? Yes indeed: how much easier to see the speck in the neighbor's eye and not the log in our own.
My congregation, as a congregation, has chosen not to judge and thus exclude others from our midst. Is there sin and evil in the world? No question. Do some people's actions merit condemnation? Um--I just said ALL of us deserve that. But we've decided that our plate is quite full enough with supporting missionary work and aiding the poor here and around the world and speaking God's word of love and mercy to any and all who will hear. The much more important work of seeking out and condemning sin we leave to God's much more capable hands and our individual consciences.
That's the sort of church I attend.

Technorati tag:

No comments: