Murky

For those looking for a rich theological reflection that provides context for my previous post, take a look at this post from my friend. His words inspire me.

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We See in a Mirror, Dimly…

This may be my favorite passage of Scripture. I cannot tell you how many times I have read it at a wedding, sending these ancient words out over a bride and groom staring back at me nervously, and behind them a buoyant congregation, faces smiling through tears of joy.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly…”

The words come toward the end of Paul’s at once devastating and heartbreaking letter to the troubled Corinthian church. The overriding tone the Corinthians convey is pride, a self-satisfaction that has divided them into communities of the like-minded. And so it is left to Paul – not known for humility himself – to remind them that the beating heart lying at the center and at the end of all things is love. Without it, we are nothing. Forget it, and we are reduced to the clanging symbols of ugly division and incomplete faith.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly…”

I think these words should be posted above every entrance to every church in the nation, a reminder that after we have sung all the hymns, prayed all the prayers, made all the pronouncements, preached and heard all the sermons, and read all the passages, our primary posture before God, one another, and God’s beloved world should be humility,

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly…”

I am thinking about these words today as I prepare to lead a workshop for my presbytery on Christian Marriage in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I’m thinking about all those couples who have heard these words read as they stood in front of the sanctuary. I’m thinking about those who long to stand in that place and hear the words spoken over them, but cannot. And I’m thinking about those of us being called to discern for our own day what God intends marriage to be and do. I see faces of friends, colleagues, beloved children of God, standing in different places, believing different things, tempted to separate, yet longing to find common ground.

In the midst of it all, Paul’s words describe the reality we feel.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly…”

The world is rapidly changing. In just this past week, a federal judge struck down a same sex marriage ban in Texas, the Republican governor of Arizona vetoed a controversial bill that would have empowered people to refuse service to same sex couples based on religious conviction, and a new survey was released showing a majority of Americans support same sex marriage – a huge shift in just ten years. 

I believe if these trends continue, same sex marriage will be legal in all fifty states in 10-20 years and will have widespread cultural acceptance across both political parties. 

The question for those of us in the church is how we are going to respond to these realities. How will we address these changes in our theology and practice of marriage? How will we respond to gay and lesbian people who are members of our churches, who come to us asking us to bless their marriages? How will we respond to same sex couples who join our churches, sing in the choir, volunteer in the missions and ministries of the congregation, and seek to be part of us in every way? What is our call when children raised in the church come back home to it later in life with their partners, asking to be married?

These are not hypothetical questions. These are the very real pastoral situations that are already happening in the seventeen states where same sex marriage is legal. This reality is what drives the efforts this summer at our denomination’s General Assembly to redefine marriage, enabling PCUSA pastors to perform these weddings in states where it is already legal. And this reality is what frightens a great number of church members who believe such a change will alter a beloved institution and create more chaos in a world that feels to have gone already badly awry.

The discussion has the potential to divide us even further. But it doesn’t have to be this way if we remember,

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly…”

If you are tempted to dismiss the people opposed to the re-definition of marriage as ignorant, or hate-filled, or out of touch, remember that they are part of the body, their concerns are heart-felt and have the weight of a rich and ancient tradition behind them, they are motivated by love for their brothers and sisters, and

“We see in a mirror, dimly…”

If you are tempted to dismiss the people in favor of the re-definition of marriage as faithless libertines, or biblically uninformed, or against the gospel, remember that they are part of the body, their concerns are motivated by real-world experience, and they are motivated by love for their brothers and sisters, and 

“We see in a mirror, dimly…”

I think the vast majority of Presbyterians are sitting on the edges of their seats, listening for a word from God, torn within themselves about the right direction to take, hoping to discern gospel in the clamor of so many competing voices. They could do worse than hear from us, before we say anything else – 

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly…”