“Think” reflection

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Cahoots festival morning gathering “Think” (part of “Think, Pray, Love”) 2016 06 10

Words of welcome:

Welcome to our morning gathering
We come to be renewed in our minds
We come to share our thoughts
To question and be questioned, to challenge and be challenged
Trusting in God’s redeeming, transforming and liberating intention
For us and our world.

A reading from Paul’s Letter to the Believers in Rome, tempted on all sides to abandon their identity.

I appeal to you therefore, kindred, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of themself more highly than they ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Talky bit – “What do you think? Do you have an opinion?”

The words of a teacher of history in my high school, trying to get a response from a classroom of teenagers who would rather be anywhere but looking at the past.

These words are meant to stir and provoke and say that yes, you are supposed to think something, you are supposed to have an opinion.

I’m thinking about a friend, a playwright working on a play about his ancestor, an elder in the church was was disciplined because he did not enforce rules about women’s clothing in church.

“What do you think? Do you have an opinion?”

We might hear about the theological struggles of previous generations. The place of women. The place of divorced people. In Paul’s day the church was dealing with the place of soldiers, the place of the uncircumcised, the place of the widowed and those without fathers.

“What do you think? Do you have an opinion?”

You probably don’t have much of an opinion. I mean, Patriarchy is bad, everyone should be included, we should strive towards nonviolence – but that’s obvious isn’t it?

If it is obvious to us it is because generations have done the work of making oppression unworkable, unfavourable, and eventually ridiculous. Imagine a time when children born out of wedlock were denied Holy Communion.

“What do you think? Do you have an opinion?”

True, these kinds of issues are also a type of power struggle we code as ‘culture war’. By marginalizing one identifiable group, a different group can attain dominance. The resistance to this sort of struggle takes many forms, one of which is that simple question;

“What do you think? Do you have an opinion?”

What happens after one is won? It becomes the new normal…

And we forget the struggle.

Right now, worldly forces are abandoning the fight to restrict marriage to heteronormative couples only. They are refocusing on making trans bodies threatening. This is happening Right Now. It is framed as a different issue, but it is the same spirit, the same power, the same idea.

Having good analysis is not primarily about knowing how to say the right things or even knowing how to go through life without causing harm.

That is a laudable goal, but our focus should be in naming those systems of oppression that are still alive and well, and resisting them, and not allowing them to continue their death-dealing, life-limiting.

“What do you think? Do you have an opinion?”

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Amen – may it be so.

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