Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves…” –Psalm 100:3
This scripture from Psalm 100 is the scripture used to open the Nashville Statement, a series of articles released as a collected statement about human sexuality and gender, signed by more than 150 Evangelical leaders this past week. The statement was meant to define marriage in terms of one man and one woman and then digress into theologies around gender identity.
In a time when millions are affected by devastating flooding and our country is sorting through the continued harms of racism, both past and present, this statement is released as one more hurdle for the church. And as the church in the Wesleyan Tradition, we have an opportunity to respond, let us be reminded that we are charged to “do no harm,” “do good,” and “attend upon the ordinances of God.”
Let us begin with the Attend upon the Ordinances of God. Let us be a people of faith who know God’s word in a way that is not apologetic, in either sense of this word. We are not about seeking forgiveness for God’s word, nor are we interested in foolish debates that try to prove what God’s word actually means. Let us instead know God’s word in a way that we are completely secure in what it says. Let us commit to wresting with it and discussing it. Let us use it to spur us on in the work to which we are called. May we be at peace with the teachings it contains in a way that offers soul freedom to our own souls and invites others into the same.
Let us know that when a group uses scripture to discriminate or divide, we have the tools, skills, and responsibility to reveal the whole picture.
Psalm 100 – NRSV
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
The scripture used at the beginning of the Nashville Statement, (the only scripture used in the whole statement,) is a Psalm celebrating the goodness of God. It is a song of gratitude for God’s provisions, God’s care, God’s love, God’s faithfulness to all people for all generations! This Psalm is about a way of being in the world that acknowledges God’s intimate love for all people. It is not a Psalm about marriage, sexual identity, gender, or divisions.
Let us be a people that is connected to our faith in a way that informs our standing, our walking, our serving. Let us “attend upon the ordinances of God.”
And then let us Do Good. Let us be a people that is able to continue to “fight the good fight, finish the race.” (2 Timothy 4:1-7 – Read it, it’s good!) Let us do as much good as we can. This Sunday in worship at Fairmount Avenue UMC, we will have the opportunity to give to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) as a way to support the Hurricane Harvey Relief. Let us seek ways to encourage reconciliation across every dividing line. Let us continue to be intentional about our relationships and invitation. Let us be intentional about hard conversations and engage where we might normally back down. Let us challenge, with love, where we see injustice.
And finally, let us Do No Harm. In a world so consumed with hurt, in a nation divided, in the face of natural disasters, let us not add hurt in the world. Let us not speak poorly of one another or of anyone else. Regardless of how many things we agree upon, the beauty of this Psalm is that we are all created by God. So, let us recognize the “mark of the creator” upon all people and find ways to love. Perhaps instead of a mean-spirited word, we offer up a prayer. Perhaps instead of posting on social media our disgust, we share a statement of affirmation for those marginalized. Do no harm is hard, but it is where we begin to find healing for all people, for the whole of the church. Let us not be silent when others are so vocal, and not just to drown out the ugliness in the world, but to offer light, peace, and joy. And let us not passively accept the distortion of God’s Word and work of the church. Instead let us hold up truth and grace by preaching, teaching, serving, standing, marching, walking, showing, sharing a more holistic approach to the teachings of Jesus.
This Sunday Fairmount Avenue UMC will begin our new sermon series, #TheNext100Years. As we consider what it will mean to set up this church for the next 100 years of ministry, we are challenged to be intentional, invitational, inspirational, and innovational. Our text will come from Acts 1:1-11, in it Jesus commissions the disciples to continue the work of Jesus, but reminds them to wait for the equipping of the Holy Spirit. After he is taken up into heaven, the disciples stand staring at the sky. It is not helpful, proactive, or even embracing of their commission. It is passive. An angel comes and reprimands them.
Sometimes we watch media, or simply watch the world, and if feels like we are just looking up to the sky, hoping for something different to show up, a new voice, a new reality. But the reality is, the church has been called to go out into the world to continue the work of Jesus. It is up to us. We cannot afford to stand and stare at the sky, hoping “Jesus will fix it.” We must embrace that we are created by God to continue the work of God in this world.
See you church.