Church Life, Lectionary, Ministry

In the Same Mind

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10, NRSV — whole passage here)

Not too long ago someone asked me if I took any kind of a class in seminary to help deal with conflict in the church. As it happens, I did! It was a great class, taught by someone who really knew the topic, a seminary professor who also consulted with conflicted churches. I have the books on my study shelf, the ones that explain some mean or troubled people can be “clergy killers,” and I remember reading them, but I also know, from personal experience, that when a pastor feels threatened–when I do–the heart pounds and the breath gets short and it’s very hard to sort out what you did wrong (or whether you did) from how other people feel and what other people think.

And most of us tend to spring to our own defense.

Come on, you know you do.

It’s very hard to find that place inside yourself where you can be completely honest and non-defensive and yet not take blame you don’t deserve either.

I suspect it’s like parenting. By the time we figure out the right way to do a particular part of it, by the time we master parenting a particular developmental stage, the child has moved on to another, and the next child will probably live it out differently, anyway.

Paul calls on us–well, on the church at Corinth–to be of the same mind. I hope what he means is to get over arguing about things that don’t matter so much. He couldn’t have envisioned arguments over paint color and carpeting and hymnals. There was no institution to support. But it’s part of the human story that we squabble and align ourselves and change teams and just generally make a hash of things, at least some of the time.

In my new setting, I know more about the struggles of the past than of conflict in this moment, which sounds weird. Maybe it’s because we’re still in the honeymoon phase. And certainly it’s because I am not inclined to whip up conflict in the first six months! What would it mean for your church to be in the same mind? What’s the most important unresolved issue or disagreement in your church life?

Lectionary, Preacher Group, Psalms

The Face of God

I’m reading a very fine study of Psalm 27, or rather the portions of it that are in the lectionary this week, and I looked to see if there will be an answer to the question raised by one of my friends (Hi, RevFun!) at Preacher Group this morning, but there was not, so here it is: what is up with God having a face?

It seemed awkward to me, too. Isn’t it the case that seeing God’s face would pretty much set a person on fire, in a not so good way? Wouldn’t God’s face be too much for us?

And do we really want to go around thinking of God as having something so human as a face in the first place?

I suspect I’m missing some important piece of exegetical material here, but since it’s only Tuesday I’m not worried about it, not yet. Maybe some smart preacher out there can tell me what all that stuff about hiding the face means. Does it refer to the social shame of being rejected by someone above you on the pyramid of power? Or is it more like having a parent who refuses to make eye contact with you? (And aren’t those DaVinci eyes a little scary?)

We went on to discuss finding some way to say it that doesn’t depend on having God be the Big Giant Head. Still pondering.