Saturday, January 22, 2011

Being of one mind. Epiphany 3A

NOTE:  I really had a hard time with this one.  I think it may be too close to what is happening in the congregation.

Ok, we have a problem with the epistle reading for today.  How are we all supposed to be of the same mind and the same purpose without becoming carbon copies of each other?  Isn’t that what we think of when we hear this?  Doesn’t it sound like, if we want to be of the same mind, then we all need to agree on everything, right?  And I don’t know about you, but I find the concept of having to agree on everything to be totally undoable.  So if we want to be of the same mind and the same purpose, what does that mean?
I think the first thing to do is to talk about what it is not.  Being of the same mind is not just turning over and agreeing about everything.  Can you imagine how boring that would be!  It is not having an opinion or just biting our lips and saying nothing.  We have God-given brains and God-given intellects.  We each have a unique set of experiences and have gifts and lessons we have learned from these experiences.  We have a life time of experiences that God has given to each of us to build up the church, the world, and each other.  With all the experience that is gathered just in this room, it would be a shame to force everyone to agree on everything and to force everyone to have the exact same attitude about everything that happens.
If we are forced to see everything the same way, we lose the depth of experience we have in the world.  When we restrict the list of acceptable thoughts and feelings to a select few, we lose the emotional color that makes our world the wonderful gift that it is.  Our God created so many thoughts, so many feelings, so many experiences; to say that we all must agree on a select few to be of the same mind is to ignore the great gifts that God has placed in our midst.
So we all are not supposed to have the same thoughts, we are not all supposed to be in lock-step.  So what dose it mean to be of the same mind?  What does it mean to not be divided?
I think the problem with this, for us, is we seem to think that either you agree with us or you are an enemy.  Just look at the world right now.  If we were to pay attention to the news broadcasters, it would appear that the only people we can ever live with are people who think the same way we do.  We can only function with people who have the exact same thoughts and feelings as we do.  Everyone must agree with us.  And if somebody does not agree with us, then that person is not just evil, but Hitler and the Anti-Christ rolled into one.  In our world today, there is no room for any kind of civil discourse; it is an all or nothing proposition.  Either you agree, or you are evil; that is it, cut and dried.  And unfortunately, I think this “all or nothing” thinking spills over into our functioning as the church.
We can see this in the split between the fundamentalist churches and the more main-line churches.  We each take the view that our way of seeing God and understanding God is the only way.  If someone else has a different view, it is often written off.  Some may say that the people are just religious freaks, but others will often go so far as to say that groups are being used by Satan to spread evil.  As Christians, we should be looking for ways to be of one mind, to be united.  We should be looking for ways to see the best in the actions of those around us.  Being of one mind does not mean that we have to agree with everyone on every point, but it does mean that even were we do disagree, we do it with love and compassion.
I think to be of one mind, we need to truly rely on God.  We need to be able to give our egos over to God and allow God to stir our thoughts, our words, and our actions.  To be of one mind, we need to ask God to give us the words we need to say, but also give us the insight to see where we need to be quite and listen.  We need to add our part when it is necessary, but we also need to be open to learning when we encounter a teacher.  And then we also need to trust that God will guide us through the whole process.
When I think about being of one mind, I always think of Brenda.  I think I may have told you about Brenda, but I will refresh your memory:

The thing that I loved about Brenda is that she trusted God and she trusted the system.  She said what she needed to say, but then, in the end, trusted that God would work through the council and do what needed to be done.  She said that after the choice had been made, to keep trying to force her will on the situation was not to act in a Christian manner.
It is not that we can’t have a conflicting point of view, it is how we go about expressing that point of view.  Often a conflicting point of view can make the entire project better.  A conflicting point of view can point out downfalls that may have been overlooked.  A different point of view can enhance what is already in process.  To disagree does not mean that we are not of one mind.  To disagree may just mean that we have different ideas of how to achieve our goals.
When we act as Paul tells and work with the same mind and to the same purpose, we can truly do the work of God.  We are called to bring our gifts and talents to the table, but then we are to finally trust that the Holy Spirit will work in the process.  How this process ends up looking may be way different than what we originally had in mind.  (I was supposed to have a large church in southern California by now!)  But we need to trust that if we continue to work in faith, that God will prevail.  If we are of the same mind, we can approach our disagreements without being disagreeable.
So often I think our ego gets in the way.  We become too invested in “looking good” instead of doing what is good for God.  We want the recognition, we want the glory.  We get caught up in those things that the world tells us is important.  We look for ways to make sure that we are recognized.
Now, being recognized is a pleasant feeling, but it is only a passing thing.  What we are to do as Christians is to work to see that the Word of God is spread throughout the world.  We do what we can, we say what we feel we must, and then we join together and go out into the world.  We add our part and then trust that the Holy Spirit will move us to the places where we need to go.
Is this easy to do?  No.  But it is part of our calling as Christians.  It is part of how we show Christ’s love to the world.  It is part of our humility in being able to admit that we don’t know everything that is going on.  In being of one mind, we are giving the best that we have for the good of God, and then trusting in God to use us to bring God glory.  


suz said...

Where's the "like" button?

BentonQuest said...

Thanks Suz, I just hope it goes over well tomorrow.

Lemuel said...

Part of the answer (which you speak in other ways) is found later in this same letter of Paul. It is couched in the image of a body - a body with vastly different parts with vastly different functions that work together for the sake of the total body. We all want to be an eye ("I") for want of hearing.