“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
(Psalm 42:5 (ESV))
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is meeting this week, and while many good things may be coming out of this meeting, it’s hard to stay positive when so much of what is reported just makes you want to shake your head. From the election of a Vice Moderator who had just officiated a marriage ceremony in Washington, D.C. (in violation of the constitution which the Vice Moderator is sworn to uphold – BTW – the VM resigned from the position within 36 hours of being confirmed), the Rainbow stoles and tablecloths that decorated the cross and Lord’s Table for the opening worship service (suggestive of the denomination’s implicit support of the LGBQT body of the church), and the playing of ABBA and Cyndi Lauper music over the PA system as transition music between session, I can honestly say I’m glad I stayed home this year.
I am not optimistic that there will be good news at the conclusion of the General Assembly regarding the historical and Biblical teaching of the church on marriage. It has already been decided that the Presbyteries will once again have to take up the issue of adding the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions, which was defeated by the Presbyteries after the last GA. As I write this, the plenary session is currently discussing the issue of gracious dismissal and the release of church property for churches seeking to separate from the PC(USA). Other decisions regarding ordination standards and the possible divestment from American companies such as Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard which allegedly profit from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine will be made before the end of the week; we await the results.
Having attending General Assembly in the past, once as an observer, once as an Overture Advocate, and as an active Teaching Elder I am very interested and concerned with the business before the GA, but perhaps a little less interested and concerned than in years past. I honestly admit, as I am writing this and also preparing my sermon today, I am streaming the video of GA and scanning the blogosphere and twitters – but I have found myself rather unflappable when more news comes out. And that, for me, is a big change.
Previously, GA would send me into a downward spiral. I’d get so caught up in the arguments and felt like I’d taken a personal blow when something was approved with which I disagreed, it would take me a couple of weeks to shake the funk. Having witnessed it personally, I was so disheartened by the vitriol and political posturing used by both sides of the arguments that the application to truck driving school looked very tempting.
But not anymore.
It’s not that I am no longer disappointed and disheartened by the continuing descent of the PC(USA) into the realm of cultural relativism and Biblical and moral ambiguity, my heart still breaks for this church. Still, there is a greater joy that sustains me through the midst of such troubled waters. As the Psalmist said above, “Why are you downcast, o my soul? My hope is in God.” Each morning and evening I have the privilege of coming before the Lord in prayer and supplication, of listening to His word and applying the teaching of Scripture to my life; I have the assurance of the promises of God’s covenant, secured in the Spirit; I have been in the presence of God – what more could I possibly ask or seek?
Such joy, such presence, is enough to sustain me through the ups and downs of the denominational hoopla, and it is sufficient for whatever you are facing today. If you have spent time in fellowship with the Father, if you have trusted in His promises, His grace, His love for your salvation, there is nothing that this day holds that should be able to quench that joy. As the saying goes, “keep calm and carry on,” for we know that “for those who love God all things work together for good” and there is nothing that can separate us from His love for us in Jesus Christ our Lord.”