We have finally made it. Our last Sunday in John 6, The Bread of Life Discourse, is finally here! Thanks be to God that there are two priests on staff here at Saint Paul’s. I can’t imagine having to listen to the same preacher trying to deal with 5 weeks in John 6. Maybe the RCL guys (and yes, I’m assuming they were mostly, if not all, gray haired white men) were trying to get us to feel what the crowd felt as Jesus rambled on and on about bread and hunger and flesh and blood.
The crowd, it becomes clear this Sunday, took offense to Jesus’ rhetoric. As I mentioned last week, cannibalism doesn’t sell. John tells us that “many of Jesus’ disciples turned back,” it seems this particular call to Kingdom living was too much to handle. Kind of like 5 weeks in John 6.
Increasingly, Christians are finding it easier and easier to “take offense,” often with other Christians. Conservative Christians take offense at the liberal social stance taken by the left. Liberal Christians take offense at the conservative understanding of sin and redemption. Quite frankly, I take offense at both of them for losing the Gospel in the muddy waters of social constructs.
When Christians take offense at other Christians, Jesus loses.
I have no concrete evidence, but I’m willing bet that the Chik-fil-a flap has done more damage to the Kingdom of God in the United States than just about every controversy you can think of, short of the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal. What if, instead of being belligerent jerks in the name of God, we decided to learn from each other? What if we gave Tony Campolo’s theory a try, “The Church needs conservatives because they draw lines in the sand that should never be crossed, and the Church needs liberals because they erase lines that should have never been drawn”?
In his post today, Tony Jones tells a story that give me hope,
“Two years ago, the ELCA fully welcomed openly and practicing GLBT persons into their church, voting to do so at their summer convention here in the Twin Cities. Prior to the vote, pro-GLBT groups did something wondrous and loving and relational: they purchased hundreds of meal tickets and had GLBT people sit at every table at every meal during the convention. They weren’t there to proselytize, they weren’t angry, and they had no axe to grind. They just broke bread and had conversation.” Read it all here.
What if we did the same? What if Episcopal priests bought lunch for a baptist on non-denominational pastor nearby? What if, instead of taking offense, we respected and loved each other? What if, we treated our enemy as a thoughtful Christian seeking the Kingdom? Wouldn’t that be loving our neighbor as ourselves? Maybe it isn’t possible in today’s hyper-partisan world. Maybe we are destined to colonies of like minded drones. Or maybe, the Kingdom of God is bigger than our pettiness. Maybe there is room for conservatives and liberals (and even moderates) at the heavenly banquet.