Church was interesting this morning. Here are some passages from the liturgy, along with my commentary:
1. “Loving God, we confess that too often we see others serving You in ways that appear excessive and extravagant to us. We criticize, scold, and pass judgment upon others, as if we could limit the abundant ways that they express their love and service to You. Forgive us, we pray, for our short-sightedness and sin. Help us to recognize that there are a variety of ways for diverse people to express their faithfulness and love to You. Amen.”
This prayer took me aback, for I wondered what exactly it was saying. But my hunch is that it was preparing us for the sermon. The sermon was by a guest speaker, who talked about Christian women in nineteenth century America. These women stood against slavery and alcohol and for women’s suffrage. They did not believe that slavery was the social order that God desired, and, rather than viewing “Canaan” solely in terms of a blissful afterlife, they tried to bring “Canaan” to people here on earth.
Different people have different callings in life. Others may not appreciate those callings, but that doesn’t make them unimportant. And I may not understand the callings of others, but they are important to somebody.
2. “We remember Mary and Martha, sisters who served in very different ways. We are grateful for their acts of service.”
This took me aback because Martha has gotten a bad rap in Luke 10 and in modern Christian culture. And maybe Martha in Luke 10 should have relaxed a little because Jesus and his disciples were not overly demanding as guests. But where would we be without our Marthas, the women who cook and serve? And yet, it’s good to help out so that the Marthas can take a break!
3. “We remember Sarah and Hagar, women whose lives were curiously intertwined and who, in their own ways, put their faith in a gracious God who would provide for them.”
And they didn’t even like each other! Yet, both of them were valuable to God and are to be commended for their faith. I should realize that there is some good even in people whom I do not like, and who do not like me.
4. “Our God forgives us, even when we have been unforgiving of others.”
This took me aback because it appears to contradict Scriptures that say that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:23-35). What the author of that prayer does with those Scriptures, I have no idea. But the prayer makes sense: I’m human, but God is divine and is thus more able to forgive than I am. But I hope that God can give me the strength to forgive.