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Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book . Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:
A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
God Shows No Partiality
by Corey Spence
Meditation for the First Sunday After the Epiphany
Book of Common Prayer Lectionary Readings:
Just yesterday I began reading the book Amazing Grace – A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris. In the book she talks about her difficulty with the words of faith and how she has reconciled them so she could return to the church.
She read Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” This verse played off her sense of perfectionism and thinking that she could never be perfect enough for God. Then she delved deeper into the source of the word “perfect.” She discovered that the word “comes from a Latin word meaning complete, entire, and full grown. To those who originally heard it, the word would convey ‘mature’ rather than what we mean today by perfect.”
What an amazing thought! God wants us to allow room in our faith and in our lives for growth and development. The faithful life isn’t about making ourselves perfect, it is about allowing God through the Holy Spirit to enrich our lives with new discoveries and ideas. We use our gift of reason to sort through what we have been taught and what we read or discover.
I was talking with a coworker in Utah who was a devout Mormon. She said that she and her husband were waiting until they felt perfect enough to ask for a temple recommend so they could have the special marriage ceremony that would seal them forever. I know that I will never be perfect enough to stand in God’s presence on my own. God’s free gift of grace allows me the privilege of serving in the church. I would never be at church if I had to wait for my own life to fulfill the contemporary meaning of the word perfect.
So many of us are worried about being perfect on the surface. We want others to see us live a life free from addiction, anger, greed, or any of the other afflictions human beings suffer. We worry that others might laugh at us behind our backs or even to our faces. We want others to do the thinking for us and want the priest to tell us what we should believe.
I lived for a long time with the faith that was given to me by the minister at the Baptist Church I attended. I was encouraged to listen to his sermons and not ask questions. Doubt was seen as a sign of a faith that lacked substance. This was the faith that failed me when I got to college and realized I was gay. Suddenly, I was one of those that were being preached against and my faith crumbled until I thought God didn’t love me. I fell into despair because my faith has always been the most important thing in my life.
It was when I was at the lowest point and I had lost my faith in pronouncements and doctrines that I finally looked up. Past all the sermons, past all the trappings of church, past the condemnation, and past the people telling me that God couldn’t love me. It was there that I saw God with arms outstretched welcoming me home. I realized that the words of the song we sang in Sunday School, “I know I am something special because God doesn’t make junk,” were true. I realized that God loved me for who I was and who I could become. God looked past my sins and doubts and touched my heart with love.
I had discovered the God of love. I knew now that nothing could separate me from the love of God. I am a beloved child of God, doubts and all. I still occasionally doubt things about my faith, but I know that those doubts are healthy.
Peter says in the Acts lesson, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Micah reminds us what is acceptable to God, “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”
God looks past the trappings of office. Riches and possessions mean nothing to God. God doesn’t care about titles, job descriptions, or status. God can see into the depths of our hearts and knows the motivation behind what we do. Will God see us as immature and greedy people seeking our own advancement? Or will God see us as loving, merciful people seeking to help each other work out our faith?
I encourage all of us to grow in our faith. Let us learn as a community what it means to work towards perfection – a maturing faith. God knows that we will have doubts and questions. God knows that in the end we are all fallible human beings. God loves each and every one of us and that love crosses all the boundaries we try to set and all the things we do to try to make ourselves better than others.
The Good News of the Gospels is that God’s love is in all and for all people. May we seek to show that love to all who enter our doors, regardless of who they are.
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