As always, I found the weekend stimulating, exciting, and a wonderful opportunity to meet and dialog with people who I might never otherwise meet. I had a change to talk with several well known evangelical leaders and writers and am grateful for the time for respectful exchange.
Much to my surprise, an ongoing discussion at some of the religion panels was the question of the ordination of women. That's right, women. One priest explained one couldn't guarentee that Jesus would be present at the sacraments if they were offered by a woman. Another religious leader explained that because women were different they could not be senior pastors. Although several of the male clergy on that panel responded, there were no women on the panel to do so. The moderator didn't notice my hand up during the question and answer section.
The pain I felt during this discussion was real and palpable. It made me appreciate in a new way the pain that gay and lesbian people called to God's service must feel when they must sit silently in denomination assemblies when people debate whether they are fit to serve.
On New Year's Day, I was invited to be one of the co-worship leaders. As I wrote last week, I had prepared a few prayers for the service, but to my surprise, I was invited in the middle of the service to offer a short homily. I stood up, without notes and preparation, and talked about the great Commandments - love God with all your might, love your neighbor as yourself. I trusted in the moment that God would be with me to offer a message that might be meaningful (and that might have a beginning, middle and an end in under three minutes.)
I addressed the difficulty of loving your neighbor as yourself -- not treating, not liking, but loving everyone, and how that must begin with the hardest part of all -- loving yourself. I wish though that I had talked about how if we fall short of that, we should at least do our best to not hurt others, to not inflict pain. Doctors take an oath "to do no harm"; perhaps religious leaders and religious denominations should do so as well.
So, those are my New Year's Resolution for this year. Do no harm. Do all that I can do to make the words of the Great Commandments manifest in my life. And to forgive myself when I fall short, which I surely will.
These words from St. Francis have been in my mind since yesterday. I think they make good New Year's Resolutions as well.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
When there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May you and your's be blessed in 2007.