I meet each week with a group of clergy and we’ve become quite close. Although our stated agenda is to study the scriptures upon which we’ll soon preach, our unspoken agenda is to listen and support each other. Lately the Methodists among us have been deeply troubled by the coming break-up of their denomination. The Presbyterians and the Episcopalians have already been through these bruising battles.
All these denominational conflicts boil down to the question of Christian identity. Who’s the “real” Christian? What’s the “real” church?
The early church especially had to face this question daily, as it wondered about its relationship to its Jewish members and scriptures, to the paganism of their neighbors and families, and to the Roman empire that demanded absolute loyalty.
This Sunday we begin our new sermon series, “Postcards from the Road of Faith: A Sermon Series on Christian Letters.” We’ll start with a true postcard: the briefest book in the Bible, John’s Second Letter. His postcard addresses some young churches that are confused about their Christian identity. In thirteen short verses, he gives clarity helpful for our times.
In this era of denominational schism, our own Church in the Forest is joyously united in worship, mission and friendships. We’ve always been blessed with a special, “sweet, sweet spirit in this place,” as sings that old hymn (click to listen and be inspired!)
We’re in a very “sweet, sweet place” to think about Christian identity and conflict.