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Springs Comes

February 14, 2015

Winter in Michigan seems to never end. Days are short and cloudy. It’s cold and the wind blows. Spring isn’t really unrevokably completely  here until late May. Before then winter might reach out with a frost and kill the tender young plants of spring.

Winter can be fierce and doesn’t give way easily. Spring in Michigan creeps in. It sneaks in. Slowly. Stealthily until it has enough presence to banish winter. And if I look carefully, I can see the very first incursions of spring.

The winter equinox was a good 8 weeks ago. The days begin to get longer but initially by tiny one and two minute increments. It takes a long time before the cumulative effect of those minutes is noticeable. It takes time for the daylight to gain momentum and push back the darkness of winter. But finally it’s light before 8 am. Finally the darkness is held back past 5 pm. Spring is coming.

This week I have heard, just twice, birds sing. Birds don’t sing in the winter. Birds around the feeder will chirp, brief and business like, at each other as they fly in and out for food.  But this week two birds sang. Their bird thoughts looking past survival and turning to finding mates and building nests. Spring is coming.

One day, in a few weeks, the wind will change. The wind will not be harsh, the cold bite of winter will be gone. The wind will have a softness and a warmth as it blows over the snow.

One day, in a few more weeks, there will be buds on the trees. Then one amazing day there will be tiny green leaves. In the morning buds and by afternoon- leaves. The annual miracle of spring.

Winter doesn’t give up without a fight. If I get carried away and rush into spring by planting petunias and geraniums too soon, winter may creep back one night with a killing frost. But eventually winter ebbs away and the even the most delicate plants are safe.

Winter doesn’t give up easily, but spring always comes. Always. Spring comes slowly and it is easy to miss the early signs. But missing them does not mean the signs do not happen. Spring comes whether we notice or not. Always, reliably. But slowly and quietly before it can with exuberant bird song and brilliant flowers proclaim its arrival.

Deep in every winter I remember spring comes, always.

Book Review: The Bible’s Yes to Same Sex Marriage

February 7, 2015

In 1996 Mark Achemeier published an article in which he supported efforts by some people in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to deny openly gay and lesbian persons from serving in ordained leadership positions. By 2011 he was actively working to repeal the ban. This book,  The Bible’s Yes to Same Sex Marriage : An Evangelical’s Change of Heart  is Mark Achemeier’s  “spiritual travelogue” (kindle location 104) of how that change of heart occurred.

Often what prompts a person to reconsider their view on same sex marriage is when they discover a family member or close friend is gay. That was not the case for Achemeier. He listened to what LGBT people told him they experienced while trying to obey the church’s traditional position. And he wondered why, if the church’s position reflected God’s will, those people suffered so much while trying to be obedient.

The result of her [a gay friend] many years of faithful, costly obedience was not life and flourishing, but brokenness and spiritual exhaustion, alienation from God and a weariness that was leading her to give up on the faith all together. These were not at all the outcomes Scripture would lead us to expect from a life of faithfulness. (loc 152)

Achemeier is not claiming that the Christian life is without hardship and suffering, but;

The abiding presence of God, strengthening and upholding the faithful through times of hardship and suffering, has been a nearly universal feature of Christian experience from biblical times down to the present day.

I was left wondering: If this path Kristi [ the gay friend] has been walking produced results that were in so many ways the exact opposite of what Scripture would lead us to expect from a life of faithfulness, could it be that both she and I were mistaken about what path God really wanted her to follow? (loc 169-170)

That is an important question. And so Achemeier begins his journey. He doesn’t try to prove same sex attraction and marriage right or wrong. He begins by trying to gain some clarity about what the Bible has to say about sexuality and marriage. What might be God’s hopes and intentions? Then he asks if same sex attraction and marriage are excluded from that ideal. He also, of course, deals with the so called seven passages but only after the biblical groundwork on sexuality and marriage is done.

To guide his work, Achemeier uses the principles the Presbyterian tradition has long used for biblical interpretation. Very briefly they are:  faithful interpretations of the Bible should make coherent, good sense,

Christ centered interpretation,

interpreting Scripture by Scripture,

interpreting passages in context, and

understanding the purpose of the Lawgiver.

These five principles are clearly and carefully explained in chapter three.

Achemeier has written a thoughtful, pastoral, biblically grounded book about same sex marriage and same sex attraction. It is a valuable addition to the growing number of Christian books that affirm LGBT persons full inclusion in society and the church.

 

Note: I received my copy of the book free from Netgalley.

 


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