Saturday, May 5, 2012
Misunderstandings and Understandings
Often it seems like it doesn't take much to cause a misunderstanding between two people or between groups of people. Even where understanding has been the mainstay, it seems like even there, a misunderstanding can sprout up like Jack's beanstalk! We human beings are prone to misunderstandings, but we also need understanding so badly. And, we do have the ability to understand each other, but sometimes that ability gets paralyzed by weariness in life and other burdens in our lives. In the early church, there were very many misunderstandings, and Paul's letters reflect these situations of conflict: between members of the church at Corinth; between members of the church at Rome; between the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter; between the Jerusalem Apostles and Paul and Barnabas; between two church members at Phillipi. Paul tried very hard in writing his letters to help people come to an understanding of each other by God's grace. Paul knew there are just so many factors in life that tend to make understanding fragile and difficult to sustain. But, he knew something much greater than our tendency to misunderstand each other. He had experienced the reconciling power of God's Spirit in Christ. Paul, a Jew, had not only experienced himself reconciled with God but also reconciled with people he had formerly condemned as unworthy of salvation and respect - the Gentiles. The Spirit of Reconciliation from God stirs within us a desire to mend that which is torn, bring understanding where there is misunderstanding, and escape the confines of our own little worlds to live together in God's big world. But, we all have our failures, and have to step back and take stock of where we are before God and with our brothers and sisters. I am doing that today. I have stepped back, hopefully out of my own limited views of things, opening myself to a larger view of others and life itself. And, I hear that advice of Paul to that church at Corinth that had so much trouble with misunderstandings and conflicts. He writes to them in the 1st Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13: "I will show you a still more excellent way . . . " And, he describes that way revealed in Jesus Christ, poured out upon earth through the Holy Spirit, and as Paul says: "poured out in our very hearts." Romans 5. And, Paul bears witness to something much greater than himself, much greater than his ideas, much greater than any words of inspiration. He bears witness to the love of God which is eternal, which endures, which heals, and which is shared with human creatures like you and me if we can open ourselves to its coming. Read 1 Corinthians 13 today with these thoughts in mind. I close with a prayer of Howard Thurman: Lord, open unto me Open unto me — light for my darkness. Open unto me — courage for my fear. Open unto me — hope for my despair. Open unto me — peace for my turmoil. Open unto me — joy for my sorrow. Open unto me — strength for my weakness. Open unto me — wisdom for my confession. Open unto me — forgiveness for my sins. Open unto me — love for my hates. Open unto me — thy Self for my self. Lord, Lord, open unto me! Amen.