Saturday, July 5, 2008
The General Assembly from a Piano Tuner and Bible teacher's perspective
My husband Brad Larson attended the 218th General Assembly with me. It was nice having his companionship as well as his wisdom. He wrote a letter about his perceptions of GA. After reading it I felt he was saying some important things and asked if I could edit out the personal parts and post it. He was happy to allow me to do that. I think hearing from someone who does not often get into the process of Presbyterian politics but loves teaching the Bible is extremely helpful.
Having been a piano tuner for more than forty years I am used to being the first and last person in the process of decision making and implementing. Occasionally when I need help I can interact with the Steinway Company from whom most of my work is drawn, directly and indirectly. The process of working out everything in committees can be constructive as well as destructive. I spend a lot of time thinking my way through issues before I make decisions that will affect my reputation and ethics because I want to be kept in the highest esteem by all I work for and represent. I feel that committees I have been a part of have often been very shallow when it comes to dealing with important issues.
So it is also with Scripture. Studying through the books of Jonah, the rebellious prophet, to John who shared the Revelation and Gospel with us at a very late time in his own life, along with many other contributors to our Holy Scriptures, I have come to see most clearly that Jesus demands that we give our complete allegiance to Him and Him alone!
At home in our own church we work within our congregation and Presbytery to accomplish what we feel is God’s direction and purpose for us. Sometimes the process works well and other times not so well. The 218th GA, however, is another story. I have never seen worse interpretations of Scripture and order of process in dealing with issues of life and death in the Church.
The oft quoted phrase “Love one another as I have loved you,” along with the passage from Micah felt too much like a hammer coming down upon me or a mantra that had some sort of influence just for the repeating of it. If the first phrase had been presented with both parts understood it would be a completely different picture. It is all good and fine that we should love one another (and I can sometimes be faulted here and need to repent), but it should have been also a part of the GA to finish the phrase by presenting just how it is that Jesus loves “us.”
Jesus encourages us with His love. Jesus warns us against sin with His love. Jesus confronts us with His love. Jesus says to us “Follow Me” because of His love for us. We have a Theologian, from our history, in B. B. Warfield who isn’t mentioned too much these days. One of my favorite things from him is his concept of Scripture called Avalanche Theology. Looking at Scripture is like standing at the bottom of a precipice and watching an avalanche coming down upon us. It might seem theoretically possible to pick our way through the falling rocks and debris and escape the force bearing down upon us but we know better.
We must see the Scripture as a whole and not try to pick our way through it selectively. It all has meaning in matters of life and death and relationship with the God we profess to love and worship.
We should rather be on our knees in prayer asking Jesus for wisdom, burying ourselves in Scripture so we might understand and discern God’s place in all our struggles of worship and belief.
The flagrant abuse of Scripture offends me deeply. Jesus left no one outside the boundaries of His love but He is very plain about what it means to follow Him. We as His children are all welcome at the Table receiving the gifts of his death, crucifixion and resurrection, but when we partake with malice, hatred, or unbelief in Jesus words to us, we do, as Paul said, drink to our own death. Simply translated this leaves us no room for personal desire or ambition; the things we strive for outside of Jesus Christ are exactly things that will draw us away from Christ.
If God is truly our highest worship then He has a right to call “sin” whatever he chooses and we will be sooner or later surprised at how right He has been all along. Many behaviors that God has called “Sexual Immorality” are plaguing the Church today. It is really astonishing that in spite of the fact that division in the church is the consequence of these behaviors no one seems to notice and the fight goes on with some imagining that sooner or later the Church will come together around these issues. It will never happen. The avalanche is upon us.
Only Jesus Christ can steer us through it. And He has promised us that He will if we will but just trust him. The rewards at the end of it all are full of joy and beyond comprehension in their magnificence. Jesus so loved the entire Cosmos (John 3:16) that He instigated redemption from the fallen world so that we might know eternal life in its fullness. We will all be just exactly who He created us to be in His image!!
May our Lord bless His Church and draw her closer to Himself as she struggles with faith and obedience.