In my last post, I talked about an upcoming CREDO conference that I have just completed. I talked about that term “credo” as coming from Latin and, while we commonly translate it as “believe”, it really means “to give one’s heart”. And so my conference this week was a bit of an examination of exactly what it is I am giving my heart to and where God might be leading me to give my heart in new or fresh ways.
One of the gifts of my time at CREDO this week was my small group. And, I do mean small: there were three of us. We each came from a different region of the country and we came with somewhat different perspectives. I am relatively confident that if we had engaged each other on what I might call this surface level we might have found ourselves at odds in a way that might have kept us from a profound experience of relationship. But that is not the level at which we chose to engage one another. Rather, we recognized in each other a deeper unity that connected us: the common experience of ordained ministry, our family connections and concerns, and a shared commitment to the Gospel of Christ. I think it likely that we might not speak of that Gospel in exactly the same way, but we chose to focus on the unity of our commitment rather than the diversity of how that commitment might be expressed in our lives and ministries. And focusing on that unity allowed us ultimately to appreciate our diversity in a non-judgmental way.
In this deeper unity of our small group, I found both sadness and hope. Sadness, in that the ability of our small group to engage one another around this deeper unity reminded me that much of the conversation in what I would call the larger church and society tends to flow from a different place: an engagement with others on a surface level that leads us to engage our differences and proceed from there. The result is a great deal of violent talk and, frankly, bad behavior. But the greater gift of our small group was hope, as we became a living example of the fact that people who may seem rather different on the surface can indeed find a deeper unity if we are willing to engage one another around what we hold in common.
This small group experience reminded me of Jesus’ promise that “when two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Christ was truly present in the midst of we three, creating connections of care, concern and support. My prayer is that this deeper unity we found in our small group might be a unity all of us become committed to seeking in larger contexts both religious and secular. For I know that it can happen: the Spirit is willing and our flesh need not shrink from the task.