The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

An Ocean of Tears

Come on! Is it really possible to all get along?

by Roy M. Terry IV

Epistle Reading:  Ephesians 4:25-5:2

For Sunday, August 12, 2012:  Year B − Ordinary 19

When I read this text in Ephesians I can’t help but think of Bobby McFerrin’s song ”Don’t Worry, Be Happy“ or, even, Rodney King’s hope filled statement after suffering a brutal attack which lead to several days of rioting in LA—“Can’t we all just get along?”

I’m not making light of hope but just being realistic about the complexity of the human condition.  The church truly would be a great place if everyone could put aside falsehood, evil talk, stealing, bitterness, wrath, etc. (you can read the list). The struggle is with the oversimplification of how that work is to be accomplished. Just don’t do those things and it will be all right! Just imitate God and love one another—it is just that simple!

Queasy Stomach

Sappy songs give me a queasy stomach. Queasy, because I just don’t think they are being truthful—happy, euphoric, optimistic and escapist, but not truthful.

I often find more comfort in songs like “Take This Job And Shove It” or “Sad But True” for at least they are being honest. Truth-telling is difficult work and it takes a lifetime of practice and formation to arrive at honest embodiment. The one major kudo I do give the author of the text is that at least the pericope begins with a call to truthfulness. Truth-telling is not easy for there will be conflict.

It’s Not That Simple

The world is longing for truth and the church is doing everything to avoid conflict. It is easy enough, as most pastors and churches do, to reduce the text to a litany of niceness. Wemyself included—will use the language of love and light as a tool to calm the masses, sidetrack the disgruntled choir, or avoid interpersonal conflict, but are we really being truthful?

“Can’t we all just love one another?” No! It’s not that simple. We speak of what we should “be” and “do” but never really work on how we arrive at being and doing. We isolate ourselves within the walls of the church in order to protect ourselves from being in relationship with others. Our fear of conflict gets in the way of actually practicing the work of forgiveness, reconciliation and genuine love. Avoiding conflict is really our fear of the truth.

Crying An Ocean of Tears

Let’s be honest! The church is a messy, beautiful, place filled with sappy songs, oversimplified answers, and a few queasy stomachs. The call to set aside the litany of the niceness for the litany of the kingdom is a difficult lifelong work. We are afraid of speaking truthfully for fear of conflict and will do everything to avoid it. And, the Holy Spirit is crying an ocean of tears.

The Hardest Question

Is it really possible for us all to get along?


Rev. Roy Terry serves as the pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, FL. In addition to working at the church, Roy enjoys supporting his wife and daughter’s equestrian pursuits, playing in the Holy Moly Band, getting a few tattoos and singing classic rock tunes at the local sports pub. He has been published in Christian Century, Duke Divinity School’s publication Divinity, The Ekklesia Project, and was a contributor in Diana Butler Bass’ work on re-traditioning churches, From Nomads to Pilgrims and Christianity for the Rest of Us.

Comments

  1. Rob Ferguson says:

    Hi Roy. I resonate with your post. I’m a Methodist now serving in a NZ Presbyterian liberal parish. I agree with you that the church tries to avoid conflict, and that has enormously harmful consequences to truth. I have often wondered whether the church is capable of getting along. My answer is that sometimes it manages more than a limp giggle, but too often the church thinks it has answers to every question going.
    Keep up the good thinking. I’m with you!
    cheers, and greetings from the end of winter.
    Rob
    my blog is roboutandabout [at] wordpress [dot] com

  2. Roy says:

    Rob: Thanks for the post. There are no easy answers! I believe people (for the most part) are tired of “answers” (rules, consumerist church, boxed religion) and ready for a community willing to wrestle with God, the truth and our relationships with each other. Out of conversation, questions and tension come growth, maturity and faith. That’s why I question the light hearted approach some read into the Epistle this week – following Jesus isn’t easy – can be a bit messy – but there is nothing more spectacular!

    Grace & Peace

    Roy

  3. Susan says:

    I agree with you that speaking the truth takes not only courage but a lifetime of figuring out what it is. And when we figure out what is true, before we speak it we are further admonished in the scripture to use our words, the truth, to build up, to minister grace with those words. Its not our mother’s admonition, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all…” The letter asks us to use the truth to bless each other.

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