G.K. Chesterton was one among a number of writers in Britain that the London Times asked to write essays answering the question, “What’s Wrong with the World?” His reply was shortest and most to the point:
Yesterday, the Presbyterian Church (USA) ratified a change in our Constitution that defines marriage in a way that includes same sex couples. This change represents the culmination of thirty years of debate within the church. There are some in the congregation who are overjoyed with this news. There are some who are upset in the congregation. There are some who have already left the congregation and denomination over the last four years, as we first allowed for homosexuals to be ordained in 2011.
We will be having a congregational forum on May 18 from 6:30-8:30. A-J Levine of Vanderbilt Divinity School will lecture on “The Bible and Homosexuality,” and we will hear from the Director of the Synod of Living waters, Terry Newland; the Executive Director of the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee, Warner Durnell; and the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee (and member of our congregation), Therese Howell.
My prayer for this time together, and my prayer for the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a simple one. May God grant us all the gift of humility. In the end, the Church is born in and sustained by grace. We are, all of us, called to engage in the seemingly impossible task of following Christ. We will, all of us, fail at it again and again. And we will, all of us, discover in our failures a wellspring of grace that picks us up and places us back on the path. Not one of us is justified by our works, not one of us is justified by having “the correct position,” not one of us is justified by the church to which we belong. We are justified by grace.
The only honest answer any of us can provide to the question of “What is Wrong with the World?” is the one Chesterton gave. I am.
If we can find the humility and self-awareness to answer the question that way, the next step becomes clear. We need each other. We need the community of faith, because it is within the community of faith we can share the journey of discipleship, where we can bump up against people who perhaps do not agree with us, where we can weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh and together worship a God whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways.
I will take my usual place next Sunday at the baptismal font and call on all of us to do what we Presbyterians do each time we worship – to tell the truth about ourselves and this world. We call it the Call to Confession, but it is really just a simple question. What’s wrong with the world? When we pray what we call the Prayer of Confession, we are answering, “I am.” Then we hear the Assurance of Forgiveness, grace pouring down like baptismal water.
And then…then, we turn to each other – white, black, brown, rich, poor, liberal, conservative, gay, straight, broken, grieving, joyous, confused, self-assured – the whole heaping diverse lot of us…and we say:
The peace of Christ be with you.
That we would have the humility, and the courage, to say and mean and live these words – that is my prayer for the church and for a world longing for grace.