Most scholars agree that after Paul's painful second visit to the Corinthians, during which he was bitterly attacked by someone about something, he left to cool off, then decided not to pay another visit right away and wrote a letter instead, the so-called letter of tears that is either lost or preserved only in fragments in what we now call second Corinthians.
The Christian faith -- certainly as we know it in the Reformed tradition -- is a faith of the community. While we make our individual professions of faith, we do so as we join the company of the faithful, the church of Jesus Christ. Parents may be the primary faith educators of their children, but it is the congregation that promises to guide and nurture the child by "word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging the child to know and follow Christ and to be a faithful member of Christ's church."
Serious Christian education requires that we not simply teach the Bible, but that our understanding of the text always be open to refinement. For 40 years I taught my Middle Eastern students, "Keep your exegetical conclusions tentatively final." They have to be final in the sense that, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I must live out my discipleship today. Obedience to my Lord cannot wait for me to read one more technical article in New Testament studies.
The occasion? Last week I was kicked out of Valley Hospice. It wasn't for moral turpitude or anything like that. I doubt if I will be brought before any presbytery committee or take up the PJC's precious time. It simply was the halfway point in their six-month program and I was too healthy. I don't really need the kind of crisis care in which they specialize. So why not save the last three months for the days I need them.
Before retiring I had the privilege of being the minister of Dornoch Cathedral in the far north of Scotland. Within a few miles of Dornoch and its magnificent mediaeval cathedral is Skibo Castle, which Andrew Carnegie not only built, but in which he spent the happiest years of his life. He called Skibo his "Heaven on Earth."
After only one month of preaching, my senior elder took me aside and said, "Charles, we think we are going to like you a lot, but your sermons are going right over our heads.You should remember that the Lord said, 'Feed my sheep' not my giraffe."I almost responded that I knew about sheep, but I had received no instructions about grubs.
We Presbyterians are searching frantically to preserve the unity of our denomination, anything to keep the church from splitting. Let's try this way, that way, a third way. There must be some way we can find! But maybe what we need is to give up our ways and concentrate on what God in Christ has done.
Several strains of thought have converged recently for me and shaped these paragraphs. The Outlook editorial of Jan. 15 by Robert Bullock and William Stacy Johnson brought thoughtful assessment of Amendment O as well as a challenging reminder of work to be done by all the church in the days after the presbyteries have voted.
Living for 15 months in Egypt introduced us to a different world -- Arabic and Islamic; ancient yet modern; a third world, and an industrial nation unable to give up its old ways; a gracious hospitable people who want you to like their country.
I have experienced an epiphany, or at least a reawakening of personal hope for our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In a day when it seems that our beloved church is being torn asunder by irreconcilable issues, such as the Amendment O debate, little did I realize that a request from my session would lead me to a rediscovery of hope for the church.