September 8, 2011
not for the purpose of quarreling
Paul's advice to the church in Rome is sound, "welcome those who are weak in the faith." Here at St. Paul's we are taking a look at the ways in which we welcome the stranger, whether brand new or a mature disciple, when they walk through the doors. One topic we haven't broached is whether or not we should welcome them for the purpose of quarreling with them. Maybe it is because Paul has already made it clear we should not. In many ways, however we (St. Paul's, sure, but the Church as well) do welcome the stranger and immediately get to quarreling. Allow me to explain. How many folks, weak in the faith as they may be, walk into a church and are expected to: 1) Know the layout of the physical plant, including but not limited to bathrooms, nursery, and even the worship space 2) Know which of the five books in the pew to pick up when the service starts. 3) Know how to read music and/or follow along to words on a screen with no music 4) Know what H82, BCP, S108 means 5) Recite the Creed 6) Know the proper procedures for receiving the sacraments/blessings 7) ... ? Maybe we don't take them to task on the theologies they carry with them through the door, but often we do a pretty good job of making them feel like a big, fat, outsider - often before the first hymn is sung. My friend Eric tells his congregation, ad nauseam, that the church is the only institution that does not exist for the benefit of its own membership. I agree, but I wonder how often, by our very nature, we work toward the opposite goal? This, quite frankly, has no bearing on a sermon for this week, just a question that bounced around my brain as I read the lessons today.