Monday, December 9, 2013

our sermon, gender equality, and plagiarism

You may be wondering how in the world our sermon, gender equality, and plagiarism are related. Well, I'll explain. About a month ago, Brian and I preached a sermon at our church here in Czech. I love to preach/teach, but honestly, this was one of the hardest teachings I have ever prepared for. The passage we preached on was Ephesians 5.

One interesting thing is that Brian and I didn't have a lot of conversations about the theology of marriage before we became missionaries. It's not to say that we didn't talk about it or that we didn't live out what we believed, but these past few years have sparked many a late-night conversation on the subject. (Always, completely peacefully, NOT!:))

I'm not sure how things go at your house, but what will start out as a seemingly innocent conversation or question (usually after I've read some blog and want to talk about it) can very quickly become very personal. So, for the past few years, Brian and I have been wrestling with the theology of marriage.

Funny enough, we were asked to preach at our church and the assigned passage was Ephesians 5. So for several weeks before hand, we wrestled some more, read the whole book of Ephesians (more than once), read some books, and stared at our computer screens wondering what in the world we should say. We really prayed about what to share, and I believe that the Holy Spirit gave us some great direction. We do not have this all figured out, but here's the sermon if you're interested. It's translated into Czech. Someday, I hope to able to do something like this without a translator, but that's a few years away.

A few days after we preached, I came across this blog post written by Bill and Lynne Hybels. Bill Hybels is the pastor of Willow Creek in the Chicago area. The post is about a whole lot more than Ephesians 5, hence the gender equality part in my title. I was so touched by this post that I cried. I cried because of their honesty about their struggle to figure out their theology and also the realities of life and how to actually live out what you believe. It's hard. This is an expert from the blog, written by Bill:

"Starting a church proved to be far harder than I had anticipated, so I was insanely busy, and the level of responsibility I carried at a young age produced continual and extreme stress. Anytime Lynne asked me to do even a small thing to help her, I felt burdened and impatient. The fact that I was earning an income to support our family, while her efforts at home as well as in ministry were always unpaid, contributed to devaluing her work. And, of course, because of my visible ministry, I was applauded and honored. Lynne heard again and again how powerfully God was using me. “It’s a good thing Bill has you serving him behind the scenes,” was a comment that repeatedly made her ask, What’s wrong with me? Why am I not content?"

And then, yesterday, I read this post written by Neil Cole, author of Organic Church (and other books) and last year's Josiah Venture Advance conference speaker. The post is part of a five-part series of blog postings in response to a recent plagiarism accusation against Mark Driscoll. (I think Cole references this very respectfully in his initial post.) The fourth post is the one that really convicted me. He talks about how important it is to ask questions and challenge each other's thinking and even question theology. And, this was the most convicting part for me:

"What would Christendom look like if we all agreed, all the time, and no one ever raised a different point of view? Some may say that would be heaven, I think it would be hell. All learning and growing would stop. We'd be monochromatic robots with little beauty or diversity, and we would lack all creativity and surprise. Heaven will be like our Creator who made 10,000's of varieties of flowers and birds, and gave each person a one-of-a-kind DNA so that each one is unique in all of history. Personally, I am grateful for the diversity of opinion. I love people that disagree with me, and those who agree as well. We all can learn from each other. We can discover the rich depth each part of the body brings to the round table if we only humble ourselves and accept one another. Perhaps combinations of thought can produce entirely new realms of understanding."

I like it when people agree with me! I especially like it when Brian agrees with me. However, this whole process of preparing for the sermon we gave a month ago has taught me a lot. And, it's made me appreciate Brian, and I hope to handle it better when we don't agree on theology in the future (hard to imagine that even being possible:)). In the meantime, I am celebrating the conclusions that we came to about marriage, and I was honored to stand next to Brian as we preached.