What does it mean to be reconciled? For the church when we use that word we often mean to bring into agreement or harmony. So it was interesting when I went to the Westminster dictionary of Theological Terms and found that it had defined it as:
The concentration of the whole person in seeking to experience the presence of God by eliminating distraction.
But that is not so surprising of a definition if you look and explore one of the more direct calls for reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. In this passage the writer is speaking to a church that was young and not quite getting along. In this passage the image that is given is that reconciliation occurs when you set aside yourself and your own selfish motives to become one with God.
This is one of the most difficult things for the church and for individual to do. But when it is done something changes, and we can see and feel a deeper presence of the divine. For the most part, I don't really think much about the things that go on at the General Assembly Level. I would say that 90% of the things that go on really have a miniscule connection to the daily ministry of the church. But that 10% can make a big difference and can often drive a wedge between groups of differing opinions.
The reality is that there are times when the issues become more important than the quest for what God is calling us to do. One thing that has really changed me happened after GA was over and I looked on my Facebook Page. In the midst of decades of emotional discussions and fights, the denomination in a very cordial way passed the Gay marriage amendment and AI with huge margins. In the community that was there, we still had many dedicated Presbyterians who considered themselves conservative. After the vote, they felt maligned.
But in the simple action and in the spirit of Reconciliation a huge conservative voice in the denomination wrote a letter to that constituency which almost made me cry as it reminded the community and myself that the church is bigger than one issue. It also reminded us that in our church there is room for a diversity of opinions, but our call is to serve God in the best possible way. Their letter ended:
Let us commit to one another, and to Almighty God, that we will seek to embody the grace and love of our Savior across our theological differences, and in personal and congregational deliberations about our future in the PC(USA). You can find the whole text here: http://www.fellowship-pres.org/pastoral-letter-pfr-fellowship-presbyterians/
Reconciliation in the church only can happen when we set aside the fight, and accept that God can work through things, even if we think they are wrong. Because, in the end we are all part of God’s body, remembering that He is bigger than any single one of us or any single opinion.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen