Tag Archives: Common Ground

Finding Common Ground

Christmas
January 5, 2018

Scripture Reading: Acts 19:1-7
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them.

I do not believe in coincidences, but my Sunday school class discussed Acts 19 this week. I enjoined hearing others describe interacting with people with viewpoints different from theirs. We talked about the diverse ways Christians perceive Christ even today. And we talked about finding common ground on which we can strive for oneness. I think it is time we set our disagreements aside and identify the things on which we can agree working on them with all our hearts, souls, strengths and minds. There may be instances when we agree on the problem but not the solution. My guess is we need all the solutions possible to deal with some of the major issues of our day. Poverty, for example,  may be addressed by .clothing, and shelter; ending discrimination in all forms. Surely we could all identify our niche among such a diversity of responses that are all desperately needed.

I wonder whether we disagree because it is easier to differ than to deal with the differences. I wonder if we struggle with divergences in faith because our faith is thinly based on what we perceive to be right rather than on our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord, show us how to love one another and grow together in our love for you and all your children. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Common Ground, Common Good

Living in the Spirit
September 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:9-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. –Romans 12:14-21

I read an article recently acknowledging the fact that the USA has lost its mainstream values. We seem to want to take great pride (which by the way is one of the seven deadly sins) in being a Christian nation while we grow further and further away from basic Christian values. Paul list many of those values in our scripture today. Is it possible that our government works best not enforcing the tenets of a specific religion, but when our citizens live the tenets of their faiths and thus they are reflected in statutes?

In William Martin’s historical fiction work, Lincoln’s Letters, the lead character from the Civil War sections gained the help of free African Americans because he was known to tip his hat to all he met. In the mid-19th Century, gentlemen tipped their hats to other gentlemen and ladies but apparently did not deem it necessary or appropriate to recognize others similarly. When asked why she helped him, one woman said something in effect that she was a Christian and she could see the good in him.

The major religions of the world share many values. They can and do come together to find common ground regarding faith interactions. I do not doubt if our elected officials sought the Common Good rather than practice my way or the highway politics, the USA would stabilize and prosper for all its citizens and immigrants.

Prayer: Lord, help us, be doers of the Word. Open our hearts to living your values. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Common Ground in Christ

Epiphany
January 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 1:29-42

One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter). –John 1:29-42

Do we routinely tell our friends about a wonderful restaurant we just discovered or a big sale at a local store or a new diet that works? Of course, we do. We want them to reap the same joy and benefits that we gained from experience. Do we share enthusiastically with our friends, the importance of the love of God in our lives and share God’s love with a community of faith? In our skeptical world going and telling about Jesus Christ is a tough sell.

History illustrates connections between the Christian faith and some very bad circumstances. Think Hitler. Today there are as many interpretations of scripture as there are people reading them, some opposed. We cluster with the people who think or believe like we do and try to dispute or avoid other viewpoints. Particularly, I think, in the USA, we are into establishing a difference between winners and losers.

What would happen if we took one year and dedicated it to only discussing and working on the things on which we can agree? We might not get everyone to agree, but if we could just find one thing on which most could agree that would be enough. Surely, feeding the hungry would qualify. Now we might disagree on the best way to do that but just getting a larger group to the table to discuss solutions might lead us toward the oneness we so desperately need.

Prayer: God, you called us to be one. Enable us to set aside that which divides us to work together on that which will make us one. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Finding Common Ground

canstockphoto31224374Living in the Spirit
November 3, 2016

Scripture Reading: Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

 When I left for college many years ago, a dear mentor of mine slipped me the words of this hymn to carry me through a time of transition.

In times like these, we need a Savior
In times like these, we need an anchor
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock 

This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the one
This Rock is Jesus, The only One
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock*

In all the messiness of this election year, I keep thinking we are on the cusp of taking a major step toward the realization of the Kingdom of God. This seems a little crazy even to me. The Body of Christ is so divided right now; we can all sing the same song, expecting markedly differing outcomes. The question with which we must struggle today and especially on November 9 is how do we lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light when our definitions of darkness and light are so different?

We need to explore in depth the way of Jesus. We need to understand his vision of justice and how he sees it playing out in real time. We need to empty ourselves of all that holds us back from living in God’s radical love as manifested in Jesus Christ. And we need to find the pieces of God’s vision on which we can all agree and work on those together until we experience true oneness that will open wider the window of opportunity to God’s way.

Prayer: Lord, help us find the acorn of justice in which we can all share and make it the ointment that heals our collective souls. Amen.

*Selections from the hymn In Times Like These by Ruth Caye Jones http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/ruth_cye_jones/in_times_like_these-lyrics-914155.html#ixzz4Orcmi2yl

 

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Right or Righteous?

St. PatrickLiving in the Spirit
August 26, 2016

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

So we can say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
   I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?’  

Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. . .. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. –Hebrews 13:6-7, 15-16

It is scary to me how we Christians treat scripture. I take great solace in Hebrews 13:6 understanding that the Lord is my helper. I have had this same scripture, or ones like it, thrown in my face like hot scalding water to justify stances claimed as Christian that are totally alien to my faith. Stances that to me echo fear rather than faith, exclusion rather than inclusion, and judgement rather than empathy. How do we discern God and practice the oneness to which Christ has called us, in a world afraid of its own shadow? How do we mesh what we perceive as right with what God considers righteous? Where is the 21St century plumb line that God provided for Amos? (Amos 7:8)

We waste a lot of time and energy butting heads on issues for which we may never find common ground while writing off as mundane the things we could accomplish together if we can drop the need to be right and adapt Jesus’ righteousness. He is our plumb line. For example, social science* tells us there is a direct link between poverty and abortion. I doubt that consensus may ever be reached on abortion, but surely all Christians have heard the call to end poverty. Some may create jobs, others may provide job training, and others may stem the symptoms of hunger and homelessness while all are one in Christ.

Prayer: Lord, make us seekers and imitators of your righteousness, which in action becomes justice. Amen.

*https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2010/abortion-has-become-more-concentrated-among-poor-women

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Art of Doing Justice

mlk-justice-and-righteousness-word-artLiving in the Spirit
August 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
   is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
   are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
   but saw bloodshed;
righteousness,
   but heard a cry! –Isaiah 5:7

As a part of our covenant with God, God expects justice and righteousness. The two words share common root meanings. Justice relates to being fair and most often is used in finding the balance in a dispute regarding what is fair. Righteousness means being in synch with God, a part of which is living out God’s understanding of fairness. As a society, the USA commits to a system of justice protected by a check and balance system of three interdependent but separate branches of governance; Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. Our country is caught in a great struggle to determine what is just because we do not agree on what is right. The result is ennui, gridlock where there is no willingness even to consider seeking justice, identifying and implementing what is fair. I do not know what happened first our religious differences spilling over into our governmental differences or our governmental differences spilling over into our religious differences.

I do know that people of faith to be faithful need to move away from gridlock and find the areas for which we can find common ground lifting us out of the muck and mire of ennui. The early Christian church provides a model. When Paul traveled to Jerusalem to deal with contentious issues of their time, they seemed to stalemate regarding whether gentiles had to be circumcised and whether they should eat meat sold in the market that was offered to idols. What they did agree on was the need to help the poor, and that is what they implemented. We could learn from these ancestors in faith.

Prayer: Lord, help us find representatives who are willing to find ways of working together that will reflect progress toward the world as you envision it. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.