This week the reading I focused on was from Ephesians 1: 3-14 where Paul was trying to assure the gentile community of their place in the Kingdom.
He tells the people there that God has called them from before the beginning of time, despite what anyone else may have been saying to them.
Much has been made of these verses over the years and there has been discussion about how it clashes with the notion of free will. Further, if some are predestined to belong, the corollary is that some are predestined not to belong which is at odds with all that Jesus preached.
So, my interpretation is that in an effort to cement in the minds of the Ephesians that they were valid members of the kingdom in a way which could not be undermined later, Paul used extreme language to make his point.
Of course, some people have not accepted the invitation to be redeemed, which is clear, because of all the evil in the world.
I added to this by making the point that we should be very careful about judging others because some so-called “sins” we see in them or suffer guilt about ourselves could simply be breaks in cultural norms.
Therefore our assumption should always be that others are children of God, whether they know it or not.
And whether a person has accepted the redemption offered or not, our task is to continue showing them the love of God.
As an application of this, I shared details about the work done by our local Christian Community Aid. It should be noted that most of the people helped by CCA are people who are isolated for one reason or other and more than anything need gathering into the community.
The message was timely because on the previous day our National Assembly released the decision made about whether the Uniting Church in Australia would marry same-gender couples.
A decision was carried by more than two-thirds majority was:
“that the most profitable way forward was to offer two different definitions of marriage, essentially one between ‘a man and a woman’ and the other between ‘two people.’” and then that both ministers and church councils should decide separately as to whether they could, in good conscience marry or not marry same-gender couples.
It was noted that for some this was a more radical change than they were comfortable with, while for others it did not go far enough.
The implication is that there are now people in the Uniting Church in Australia who are grieving over this matter. Our prayer is that they will find a way to experience solidarity with those who are in favour of the change as they find previously.
Division was never sought. Those seeking change wanted it in the name of offering people of any sexual orientation the same gift of marriage as heterosexual people enjoyed.
However, as in any disagreement, our concern for each other can hold us together. One of our ministers wrote most eloquently:
The Uniting Church has a courageous heritage. This Assembly has seen us live this out in a range of bold, wonderful, and painful decisions. We are all God’s people, so may we now focus on what unites us and be about God’s business - reconciliation and renewal.
To that I can only say AMEN! v