Friday, May 13, 2016

The Tear in the Fabric

Friday, May 13, 2016

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made.  Matthew 9:16(NRSV)
Jesus used common, everyday illustrations to make his teaching clear.  You do that when your message is incredibly profound and complex.  The simple illustrations helped his disciples understand.  He talked about sowing seeds, weddings, wine and tattered clothing. 
When Jesus talked about old, frayed or torn fabric, everyone who ever tried to rescue a worn-out garment by patching it, understood; they understood because most of them had made the mistake of doing the worst thing you can do for an old piece of cloth:  sew-on a patch made from a new piece of cloth.  The first time the garment is washed after the patch job, the shrinking new cloth will pull away from the old, and the garment will be torn again, and in worse condition than ever. 
What you have then is a “Pyrrhic” piece of clothing!  King Pyrrhus won infamous battles against the Roman army in the 3rd century (AD).  The Romans were defeated, but Pyrrhus lost so many more men than the Romans in doing so, he was quoted as saying: 
If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.[5]
The point is that, while victory always comes with a price, sometimes the price is so great you are left wondering if you would rather have lost. 
A Pyrrhic victory is not something you underline or highlight on your resume’.  It’s similar to a shopping expedition my bride returned from many years ago; she proudly announced she had saved us over $400 on a furniture purchase.  All I could see is the $1800 we spent.
Let me be clear where I’m going today, and to do that let me first disclose that I am totally in agreement with how the United Methodist Church sees homosexuality as published in its doctrinal tomes[2]incompatible with Christian teaching.
Here is my point:  I have been wondering if King Pyrrhus has been put to work again in Portland.  With agenda point and counter point, Roberts Rules of Order, positioning, motioning, amendments to amendments, delaying, disrupting, disobeying and other tactical worrying of the entire body of delegates, is the cost of this tearing-apart the soul of the United Methodist Church?  Is this epic (45 year struggle) going to leave anything left to offer to God?  Is this a Pyrrhic General Conference? 
And, of course, others have wondered this.  But, have my friends in the LGBTQ “new patch” group considered at all to what old garment they’re attaching themselves?  The United Methodist Church is an old garment, certainly.  And even the thought of LGBTQ as “normative,” considering historical Christian thinking and doctrine which has deemed it loathsome and abominative, is garment-tearing territory!  There is little chance of “win-win” in this marriage.  And….so….I would ask….what do you want?
Is there ever a time when homo and hetero can actually walk together?  The prophet didn’t think so: 
Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?  Amos 3:3(NLT)
I really don’t think so either.

For You Today

This whole issue has brought another time to mind – when a pastor friend of mine was asked to lead a prayer before dinner at a secular gathering where there was known to be much friction and disagreement.  Pastor Al prayed:  Dear God, help us be better than two cats with their tails tied together.
The imagery (for me) couldn’t be clearer; the stronger cat might win…but at what cost?  Even if one kills the other, he will have to drag his dead conquest around with him by the tail for the rest of his days.
Surely we can be better than that; maybe we could be as godly as Paul and Barnabas, who, when they couldn’t agree about John Mark, for the sake of the Gospel went separate ways.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!

[1] Title Image:  By Stilfehler (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[2] The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2012

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