What I’m Reading Today: Romans 12-13
Many of us who arrive in the United Church of Christ (UCC) come to the UCC from a variety of different faith backgrounds and traditions. I, for instance, arrived in the UCC after having been raised United Methodist. Being part of a faith community that is compromised from individuals from so many backgrounds can certainly be a challenge. It can also be a wonderful blessing – if we welcome the different perspectives people bring rather than feel threatened by them.
Let me give you an example of how I believe my Wesleyan (John Wesley was the founder of the movement we know today as Methodism) roots can help enrich our life together as members of the UCC.
John Wesley put a strong emphasis upon one of the concepts that was contained in today’s passage from Romans 12 – a thing called sanctification.
And what does sanctification mean?
Well, Paul describes it by telling us to “fix our attention on God.” If you do that, he adds, “you’ll be changed from the inside out… God will bring the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:1-2 from The Message). That is sanctification: the work God does inside you that changes you, rather than the work you initiate yourself.
So how can this theology inform my way of being in the UCC?
Well, when I hear folks talk about the history of firsts that have been accomplished by congregational communities (things ranging from the first ordinations of African-Americans, women, and gay and lesbian individuals), I think about those “accomplishments” in ways that might be different than some. Instead of thinking about them as things we human beings achieved on our own, I think about these as things God accomplished through us because we opened ourselves to the working of the Spirit within us. If there is a sense of accomplishment in those historical firsts for me – those accomplishments are God’s and not ours. What I CAN celebrate, however, is the faithfulness of my spiritual ancestors in the UCC – for they had the faith and the wisdom to get out of the way and let the Spirit do the Spirit’s thing!
If you happen to be a member of the UCC who has come into the denomination from another faith tradition, I would invite you to spend time thinking today about what perspectives and gifts you have brought to the UCC from your previous background(s). If you have been a lifelong member of the UCC, then you might reflect on some of the perspectives/gifts others have brought from other traditions into the denomination. If you are a part of another faith tradition/denomination (or no faith tradition/denomination), you might think about those things you have brought with you to your journey to this point that are blessings as you move into the future.
Til next time…