This Saturday, the 29th of June, is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. What a wonder it is that these two great apostles have a feast day to SHARE, a feast that offers us a much-needed space to celebrate, pray, reflect, and act on differences.
Peter – the one who left his nets to follow Jesus and sometimes understood and sometimes misunderstood, who denied he knew Jesus and is the rock upon which “Church” was built – shares a feast day with Paul – with the one who breathed murder and threats against the disciples of Jesus and then was breathed upon by the Spirit of God to stretch the story of Jesus into the world way past Jerusalem.
From our sacred texts right on through the writings of contemporary historians, there are differences about the differences between Peter and Paul, about who may have said/written what and about just what was being expressed in those words. And, of course, we have nothing close to all that was said and written. The differences were about beliefs and also about feelings. The differences were about what this new thing becoming “Church” would be and about who would be included, but also surely about feelings of suspicion and fear and even enmity among persons very different from one another. We don’t know everything about the differences. Differences are like that.
There are a good number of congregations in the Iowa Conference that bear the name of St. Paul. And a few that bear the name of St. Peter. One of my ongoing daydreams is of congregations, new or renewed, that are named “Saint Peter and Paul”. It’s a name, in my daydreams, that would bear witness to the ways we intend to follow Jesus with differences. It’s a name, in my daydreams, that would bear witness to our beginnings in a great conversation about differences and to our history of great conversations about differences and to our call to continue to differ as faithfully as we possibly buy imitrex injection online can, listening alongside one another to a God who still speaks.
It’s a great wonder that General Synod gatherings of the United Church of Christ most often include the day of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The focus point for the dates of General Synod is the birthday of the UCC on June 25th. But it is a fantastic coincidence (a Spirit-incidence?) that the stretch of Synod days also includes this extraordinary shared feast of two men whose lives bore witness to a still speaking God. Speaking to them about deeply held beliefs and values about food and circumcision and what it meant to be devout in daily life. Still speaking to them and still speaking about inclusion and exclusion. Sending and still sending imaginable and unmistakable dreams about welcome and grace.
It is a fantastic coincidence (a Spirit-incidence?) that we come together as a General Synod on the day of Saints Peter and Paul. We come ready to be surprised and turned around by our still speaking God. We come ready to offer God the gift of our differences. We place important differences, even differences we’ve known as holy, into God’s hands and stand ready to watch the Spirit shape them into what “Church” is becoming in the day beyond our seeing.
In our prayers and in our choices these days, we name ourselves as the spiritual heirs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. We claim an inheritance of differences and a vocation to differ. We pray as hard as we can to be surprised and turned around by God’s voice. We hold our differences with all possible reverence. We plead for the Spirit’s gifts that we might speak and act from differences in ways that utterly honor Christ. We trust our differences into God’s sovereign shaping. We offer them to God with an obedient, humble, sweat-breaking faith in a Way that, far beyond our own, is God’s.
—Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister