From today's lectionary readings:
"I will appoint Peace as your overseer and Righteousness as your taskmaster." Isaiah 60:17b
"Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety...Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels." 2 Timothy 2:16, 23
There is a dissonance in the language of Isaiah 60:17b. It places Peace and Righteousness in the context of language of slavery and oppression. This vision of Isaiah is one of a completely new order, flipping everything on its head as God's reign is realized. Language of submission is never easy to swallow, even though we have all (baptized and confirmed believers) acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But I think the language of submission to Peace and Righteousness is appropriate, and appropriately challenging.
Peace and Righteousness are not merely lofty ideals; they are disciplines. They are yoke and bridle. They require us to work, and the work is not always pleasant. We find ourselves yoked to other workers who we would rather avoid altogether, if we had our 'druthers.
As for the selections from 2 Timothy, I confess that in the past week and a half, I have been very guilty of the offenses above. Since the "Final Letter to the PC (USA)" was circulated, I have been somewhat addicted to following the responses, the blog posts, the Twitter feeds - all of the conversation that has been generated from this letter. While much of it has been very thoughtful, helpful, and faithful, there is no question that there has been some "profane chatter," which certainly has led to some impiety, at least in response.
I won't say that this controversy is "stupid and senseless," but there is no doubt that it has bred quarrels, and I fear it will continue to do so. Perhaps it is raising important questions or challenges for the church. It has certainly spurred dialogue across the country. As a member of the Special Committee to Study the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century, I have been following that dialogue and listening for answers to the question, "How are we called to be church today, and in the future?" I hope and pray that the result of all of this will be a church that is stronger, more unified and yet more diverse, that will be a more faithful witness to Jesus Christ in what we say and in all we do. I pray that this will be an opportunity for real discernment, waiting on the Holy Spirit to ignite us once again, to be the light and salt that we are called to be.
That is my hope, and my prayer. As we continue to move forward, let us really consider what it means to have Peace as our overseer, and Righteousness as our taskmaster. Though we chafe under submission, let us be reminded that we are all called to submit joyfully to Jesus Christ, remembering that the church is the Body of Christ on earth. We exist not for ourselves, but to be a witness to the grace, peace, justice, and love of Jesus Christ. It is God who calls us together, and our togetherness can be sustained and strengthened only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us all pray humbly for that guidance and unity of Spirit, in the name of our savior Jesus Christ.