Sometimes this thing my Methodist friends lovingly call “the discernment process” is a rollercoaster ride. At least it is for me. There are the high points, like marrying my friends on Saturday. In moments like that, filled with beauty and love, I think I could be a minister. Then I started my class on premarital counseling.

When I signed up for the course, I thought it was a tragic irony that it should start two days after the wedding. Now I think it was a blessing. I might have abandoned the whole project if I thought that my friends’ marriage had to live up to what I’m learning. To be fair, the professor is a nice man that is open to alternative ideas. But he also makes very clear that there is an ideal marriage and that all others are “adjustments” and “not what God intended.” Despite the tremendous plurality of understandings of both Christianity and marriage, he is certain he can clearly identify a proper “Christian marriage.” Turns out it consists of one man and one woman and must last forever. Because I know many people (Christians, even!) whose lives are intertwined with — and thriving in — alternative realities, this breaks my heart.

I was also at a meeting where a woman boldly proclaimed that she was a Christian and not ashamed of it, that there was nothing embarassing about being a Christian. I sympathize with — and perhaps even envy — her confidence in and commitment to the faith she loves, but I cannot agree. Too often, Christianity concerns itself with policing its boundaries and in the process hurts people for its own self-preservation. Bloody doctrinal controversies, the Inquisition, slavery, patriarchy, homophobia: Christianity takes a profound message of love and justice and twists it into something demonic that divides, excludes and exploits. It makes me wonder why anyone would call him- or herself a Christian, much less a minister.

So that’s what we’ll talk about this Sunday: Why stick with it? In a community that questions so much, why do we continue to call ourselves Christians? And how do we do it? How do we negotiate the path we’re on? Is this “the Way?”

The lectionary texts this week are Genesis 22:1-14 and Romans 6:12-23. Both texts are troublng: the former because of the content and the latter because of the way it has been used in my own tradition. I encourage you to read both texts as background to our conversation. You should also read the Gospel text, Matthew 10:40-42, which is a beautiful call for compassion and justice. But I’m choosing a different passage: Genesis 32:22-32, which is the story of Jacob wrestling with God until God blessed him. I hope you’ll join us.

Grace and peace,

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