Most of us would like to be known as “good listeners.” But, we are not. We don’t hear criticism, or another point of view, or a different answer to the difficult questions of our time. We want agreement – not the hard work of disagreeing, and finding our way to consensus. Airing real differences is hard.
Institutions have their own traditions of how to resolve problems, how to come together, how to persuade, how to agree. Businesses have their way. So do schools. And governments. And churches.
Hard in churches because faith is at the heart of their life. And that is a tender thing. A deep, highly personal reality.
I rejoice in the tradition of my own heritage of church life. It is based on the scriptural word of Jesus, that “where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” What a strange and wonderful offer that is, on Jesus’ part. He is saying, “When you gather (have a meeting) IN MY NAME, I am THERE, in the MIDST OF THEM.”
He is talking about how He leads His people, His church – whether groups large or small. He invites them to call upon Him to come, and be with them, and lead their thinking and planning until a strange unanimity is given them, by His Holy Spirit, and they find themselves all together – in one mind and heart, saying, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us.”
They are united, something they could never have done alone, and they understand it as miracle, as Divine leading. And so they are glad at how God has helped them listen to each other, and be commended by other’s thoughts and concerns, and have gradually come together – without winners or losers – but brothers and sisters who have been led by their Lord.
It is the peculiar way of their young and daring ancestors of Scrooby and a host of other faith gatherings of the English countryside, which resulted in a famous departure in a vessel called the “Mayflower,” and the community they first settled at (New) Plimoth on the edge of the American Wilderness on a coast we call Massachusetts.
Their covenant agreements to love and serve as a community together became models for the founding documents of the descendants 100 years later. This was the Mayflower Compact which laid the groundwork for a later generation’s Declaration of Independence, and Constitution. Documents of common consent, under God, to walk in His ways, and care for each other and be, as their Puritan followers to Boston in 1630, a “city set upon a hill with the eyes of the world upon us” – America’s vision of a servant nation that could be an example to the world.
The years made it clear that they were mortal men and women, often in need of repentance, “awakening,” and revival – down to this very day. But, they had a vision, and scripture says “without a vision the people perish.”
The America they struggled to establish was a dark and fragile thing, embracing great wrongs as well as visionary rights.
The battles for balance have already been fought over and over, and are even now being fought in the streets and in the heart of the cities we all love that straddle the upper reaches of that “Old Man River” that both divides America, and calls her together – TO BE ONE.
The work to be done is the work of spirit, and heart, and most of all repenting and renewing faith. It is the work of church, and believing people, perhaps more than any other. The people who have hope, by faith, and who may least want to rise to the task.
It will take prayer. And comradeship. And kindness. And leadership. And, on the way, FORGIVENESS.
Can we do it? Being the ones who step forward – not even knowing the consequences? I believe we can be those very ones. Because we know the ONE WHO CALLS, and shows us the Way.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES