Over the past ten years, our congregation has faced many ups and downs, hitting one of its lowest points at the dissolution of my predecessor’s relationship with the church. Since coming I have heard numerous reasons for this split, the primary reason around the issue of Homosexuality. The thing that makes this all the more difficult is that in the church today the issue of sexuality has spawned many churches to leave the PCUSA denomination for a handful of new Presbyterian denominations. As we recognize and feel the hurt in our congregation for the people who have left us, the denomination feels the hurt and pain of the churches that have left and are in the process of leaving.
This is one of the reasons why I am choosing to focus the theme of the 10:30 am service this month on the theme of reconciliation. The word reconciliation literally means, “A brining together again” in Latin. Reconciliation is a very basic tenant of Christianity and is often talked about in two related but distinct ways: how we are reconciled to one another and how we are reconciled to God.
When we talk about reconciliation in terms of being reconciled to one another, we do so in a way that says no matter what our differences may be, we are one. This is one thing that I love about most of the churches I have served, especially this one! When we can say: “I don’t agree with you, but I respect you and accept you,” you are able to start the process of coming together.
As Presbyterians we understand that no individual has all the right answers and that people come to God in various different ways. We exemplify this in our worship where we have various types of music and have multiple spiritualties represented. Not everyone is going to experience God the same way, but in a very real way with a diverse service we can come together as a community and share the witness of Jesus Christ.
Living the reconciling life is different than living a pious life. The reformed theologians rejected piety based on the self-serving nature and utter impossibility of living the perfect life. In fact, as some reformers pointed out, once an individual attained true piety or perfection, they fell into the trap of elevating themselves over others, which placed them in a godlike position.
When living the reconciled life we recognize that our way is good, but is not the only one. Therefore, we have to constantly ask the question of how we can humble ourselves to the witness and understanding, which come from others in our community. “23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Like I often say, one of the great gifts of our tradition is that not only are we allowed to be wrong, but we are always challenged to change.
Which brings us to the second reconciliation, that which is toward God. While we strive for reconciliation towards each other, ultimately our goal is to be reconciled with God, in biblical terms, to be made one with God. This reconciliation, like the reconciliation that we have with one another, requires a great deal of change. For every year of our life, if we really take a moment to think about it, our understanding and witness to God changes. When we accept that our understanding of God changes but God’s love for us never does, we can begin to understand what it means when Paul says:
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
Unfortunately, people do not always follow a reconciling faith. This leads to derision, fights, and power struggles. It tears churches, denominations, and individuals apart. While it is sad to see people and churches leave because they feel that their way is better, we can live into the witness that God calls us to live a reconciling life and that no matter what they may do to us they are always welcome in our family, and we long for them to once again be brought back into the fold.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Mt 5:23–24). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (2 Co 5:18–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen