I am preparing a sermon for July 19. AAAKH! I have been invited to preach at my former home church in Urbana, IL. The lectionary suggests texts from 2 Samuel (David’s desire to build a temple) and Ephesians where the writer welcomes Gentiles into the church in Ephesus by saying, “You are no longer strangers, but part of the family.”

It has me thinking about the nature of the church, a particularly important topic today in light of many recent developments in our society.

We have watched events unfolding after the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, after the horrific murders in South Carolina, followed by the offering of forgiveness from the victims’ families, and the subsequent debates about the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments. Some of the most hostile responses have come from churches, pastors, and “good Christian folks.” Some of the most compassionate responses have also come from those same sources.

How is the church to respond to events that prompt such intense reactions on both sides of an issue?

It seems to me that it is not the church’s place to land on one side or another of such issues. That’s too simple. To advocate for or against is to take one side and alienate everyone on the other side. The church’s mandate is far greater than any one issue, any one party, or any one government. The church’s mandate has to do with reconciliation, with restoring relationships, whether it is a relationship between two people, two groups, or between a person and their God. Reconciliation is not about agreement or even compromise. It is about recognizing that the relationship supersedes the differences, any differences.

If people of different colors, different backgrounds, or different sexual orientations cannot sit next to each other and share in communion and in conversation about the issues that are most personal to each, we are not being the church.

More to come.