Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cutting Through

I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.

                        Isaiah 45.2

The Trial of Janet Edwards

On October 1 Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, a parish associate at Pittsburgh’s Community of Reconciliation Church will stand trial before her Presbyterian peers. Forgive my saying so, but that statement alone conjures images that feel, well, medieval. And what was her crime? She presided at the nuptials of two women. (See the video and postscript below.)

The topic of same-sex marriage is extremely divisive within the church, in society at large—even inside the GLBT community. Setting it aside, however, the trial of Janet Edwards exemplifies dozens of controversies surrounding our inclusion in the Body of Christ. Church-related issues we personally confront also can feel as looming, impenetrable, and inhibiting as those Dr. Edwards now faces.

Walking Heavy

As we answer God’s beckoning back home, we can’t permit threats and resistance to intimidate us. Our Father accepts us and desires our reconciliation with—and by—His household of faith. We must never be dissuaded of this and here’s why. Our very first move toward the church finds us already one step behind. God promises to go before us as we follow Him.

Make no mistake: God walks heavy. When He puts His foot down, mountains topple into dust piles. Doors burst their hinges. Bars snap like twigs. Suppose we could climb over hostility, sweet-talk our way inside, or create an uproar until we get in. That’s great for us, but how about those coming after us? We’ve not made their way any easier. When God goes first, He changes the landscape: “Every valley shall be raised up; every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” (Isaiah 40.4)

Keep Moving

It’s so tempting to peek over God’s shoulder, trying to get a glimpse of the hard road ahead. Yet what good is that if, step-by-step, He’s cutting through the nonsense to open a smooth path for us? If we knew half of what and whom He has to deal with before Christianity as a whole accepts us, no doubt we’d become paralyzed by fear and doubt. We’d fall perilously behind.

How fortunate that He clears the way and simply asks us to keep moving in His wake. How wise we will be to step into areas He’s already passed through—welcoming churches, accepting families, GLBT organizations promoting faith, etc. God isn’t finished with this yet, not by a long shot. Indeed, we may not live long enough to see His work fully completed. But He’s already brought us a long way in a very short time. Every step gets better, every victory sweeter. And every day brings someone like Janet Edwards marching behind God with us.

Dr. Edwards tells her story.

(Tomorrow: Dwell Well)

Postscript: A Time to Embrace

In an inspired strategy, Dr. Edwards has appealed to sympathetic supporters everywhere to join her in Pittsburgh for her trial. If at all possible, we should be there in full numbers. Details and contact information to help with travel arrangements are available here:

A Time to Embrace/Come to the Trial October 1

Note: if you need travel assistance please contact them before September 5. While you’re on the site, don’t overlook the superb summary of the apologia Dr. Edwards filed in advance of the trial.

Need this even be said? It’s vital that we uphold her in prayer. This next month will convene its own kind of trial for her, no doubt. We must shower her with strength. Then, never knowing if her judges will hear God’s Spirit or buckle under political pressure, we pray His protection over her spirit and deliverance from her adversaries.

Finally, even those who can’t go to Pittsburgh can “put feet” to their prayers. In reply to a note of encouragement asking what can be done from a distance, Dr. Edwards wrote:

Another way you could help is to watch for any media coverage and to send supporting emails to the media outlet in response to it. Your prayers are my shield and buckler. Peace, Janet

In other words, watch and pray.

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