Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fifteen Minutes of Spotlight; At What Cost?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
He must increase, but I must decrease.  John 3:30 (NRSV)
John the Baptist dressed like Bigfoot and did strange things.  If a community was going to hold an area-wide gathering of Christians, the Baptist would have been invited to be the keynote speaker, not Jesus.  John, after all, was the popular anti-hero, thumbing his nose at Herod and the Roman Empire. 
But the point about our hypothetical keynote conference speaker has nothing to do with who got invited; John would not have accepted.  He knew his time was over, and the time of Messiah, Jesus was at hand.  It was time for John to get out of the way of Jesus.  John refused to be the “star” in the spotlight; his calling was to point to Christ, not build a following for book signings and movie deals.
Which is somewhat different from Frank Schaefer’s saga.
Frank Schaefer was defrocked last December by a United Methodist panel of judges, when a church trial unanimously found him guilty of violating his vows under the Book of Discipline.  He was stripped of his credentials and his appointment in a Lebanon, PA church for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding six years ago.  Yesterday, the UMC appeals panel reinstated Schaefer (with back pay) due to a legal irregularity in the way the penalty phase of his defrocking was handled.  Read the NY Times article here
Progressives – those in favor of full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in ministry are heralding the decision as a great victory for Schaefer and the church, while on the other side, conservatives are crying “foul”.  My friend Drew McIntyre wrote neither ‘side’ won here. 
I think Drew is right!
Drew also held up the specter of this being a “pyrrhic victory” where the so-called winner uses up so much of his strength/resources in the fight he loses much more than he won.
I think Drew is also onto something here!
And that would be true no matter what “side” won today; the cost is colossal.
In the long run it is right to stand up for issues in which you have strong conviction.  I have no doubt that Schaefer and the pro-LGBTQ lobbyists, as well as the “hold-the-line-conservatives” AND all the “middle-of-the-roaders” have attempted to earnestly contend for what they perceive as the faith once-delivered to the saints.
But, at what cost all this fighting?  I see no resolution in sight. 
If the consistent “push” of the left against right finally “wins” and ordination for homosexuals becomes church law for United Methodists, along with every other “open door” that brings, there will be a mass exodus of those who hold the traditional view. 
It happened in the Episcopal Church in 2003, and just last week in a close vote the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to accept LGBTQ clergy.  None of these churches have remained unscathed in the wake of such infighting and rancor.

You HAVE to ask the question:  What is going on?

I believe what is happening is John the Baptist in reverse.  Jesus must decrease if we are to have our way and our day – our 15 minutes of fame comes first!
Those of you who know me understand I am not a “date-setter” for the return of Christ.  But, if I was, the temptation to preach every sermon from now on about watching the eastern sky would be overwhelming. 
And my prayers?  They almost always end with “even so, come, Lord Jesus”.

For You, Today

It is recorded in the Gospels that Jesus told his disciples the last days would be marked by incredible evil.  Frank Schaefer’s name is not listed in those passages, but neither is mine. 
We must all be careful to honor God with not only what we do, but the way in which we do all things.

Keep this before you – HE must increase; WE must decrease.

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