Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fishing in a Divisive Climate

A few years ago I was speaking with a Canadian friend about the "climate" in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. We hadn't seen one another in a couple of years and in that time the climate in both churches had become more contentious. Disagreements, which had always been there, were becoming acrimonious. We were being infected, I concluded, as North American politics had, with the virus of a dismissive and demonizing rhetoric. Those with whom we disagree were no longer friends or sisters and brothers in Christ, but the enemy and not worthy of our respect.

Paul, in the Epistle lesson for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany (1 Corinthians 1:10-18), seemed to be dealing with this same problem in the First Church of Christ in Corinth. Divisions were threatening the life of the congregation, with members breaking up into factions on the basis of which person had baptized them. I suspect that Paul saw nothing wrong with folks having some affection for those who had brought them into the Church, but Paul knew that one person who really mattered was Christ and he could not be divided.

Whether our divisions now are based upon personal history, e.g., who was rector when we joined the parish, or upon our deeply held convictions, we put the ministry of the parish in peril when we let those divisions become a roadblock to our working together. Like the not at all solitary work of fishing in the Sea of Galilee, our work in ministry is a communal affair. Even when one of us appears to be working alone, e.g., at a hospital bedside, that work is supported by the prayers of the community and flows out of our sharing in the life and worship of the community.

I believe that God is calling us to "fish" together in this divisive climate, to refuse to allow disagreements to divide us, and to persevere in working together to proclaim, in words and in action, the Good News of God's love incarnate in Jesus.

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