COMMAnts from the Conference Minister – October 2018
Our Faith in this Painful Moment
Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. These two names are at the forefront of our political scene right now. One is a nominee for the highest court in our land. The second is a woman who somehow found the courage to tell her deeply personal story on a very public stage.
There is so much about all this that warrants our attention and dialogue. There’s the backdrop of an ugly, dysfunctional political climate that has devolved into something about which no American can truly be proud. There’s the subject of privilege, especially entrenched male privilege that has allowed women to be devalued for centuries and our stories to be discounted. There’s the stark, sobering reality that Dr. Blasey Ford’s brave witness has unveiled all around us, that so many women and men have suffered the violation of sexual violence and been rendered silent by a culture that would shame and blame them for it.
But what of our faith? How does our faith inform this very tender, controversial moment in our country’s history?
The power of story. Our sacred texts are full of story, the collective witness of people who endeavored to speak their truths in their own complex social and political climates. The prophets of old and Jesus himself bore witness to the injustices and indignities of their time and spoke truth to power. A woman at the well poured out her heart to Jesus about the agonizing truth of her own life and received compassion and mercy in return. The women who discovered Jesus had risen ran out to share their testimony, only to have the disciples doubt their witness. Our faith is filled with stories that reveal something about God’s love, mercy, and unquenchable hope; they also reveal the struggle of people to make sense out of their own stories from a standpoint of faith.
Perhaps the dueling testimonies of Brett Kavanugh and Dr. Ford – as painful as they are to receive – have something to teach us today too, can help us see something unbearable about our own time that requires our acknowledgement and confession as a people of faith today. Stories teach us and should move us to respond more thoughtfully and prayerfully than we might have had we not heard them.
The healing task. Jesus was approached countless times by people desperate for healing. They came for themselves or on behalf of their loved ones. They came believing that Jesus had the power within him to grant the healing their bodies and lives yearned for.
Now that healing task is our task as Church. This painful moment in our nation has re-traumatized many in our congregations and communities who themselves have experienced sexual violence. They need our gentle responses and careful listening and open hearts. We need to provide respectful, healing space for them and for each other as we navigate these very troubled waters. And somehow, some way, we need also to be places where the ugly rhetoric and bitter divisions all around us can give way to real conversation, prayerful discernment, and a common pursuit of holy wisdom. That too is our healing task.
We may wish that we could find a respite from all of this turmoil when we enter our sacred sanctuaries, that somehow our churches could be a quiet refuge from all the political noise. But our faith compels us instead to engage the world with all its pain, bear witness to others’ testimony, and to create a space where healing and deeper wisdom can enter in.
May God grant each of us the strength and wisdom and gentle grace to be the Church God needs us to be in this tender moment.
Your partner on the journey,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
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