Enlarge All Christian Souls to Comprehend God’s Love
“Reflecting God’s Heart” was the theme of the More Light Presbyterians’ national conference held last weekend in Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, NY. From start to finish, the worship, receptions, meals, workshops and evening movie time were all geared to fulfill the prayer from the last verse of the poem of our 17th century Pilgrim ancestor, John Robinson: “Enlarge, expand all Christian souls to comprehend your love.” I want to weave together memorable words and images from the featured preachers. These moments will enlarge my heart forever more.
How could I ever forget Ray Bagnuolo’s image of the 15 foot high pile of trash bags he encountered on an upper East Side Manhattan street as he walked from the train station to his church one cold winter morning? As he passed the mountain of garbage he noticed a bag that seemed to have fallen and rolled away from the rest. Suddenly he realized that it was not a bag of trash, but a man bundled up in black plastic, curled on the sidewalk.
Ray spoke about how shaken he was by this. I was so shaken by his image that I may have missed his overall point as my own thoughts carried me — see no one as trash and treat no one as trash, especially those that are singled out and separated from the rest. From now on, anyone I see as marginalized will evoke, in my mind, this picture of trash fallen from the pile. That person is a suffering child of God. God loves them. I am to love them.
Later, Brian Symonds painted an indelible picture of the boy who provided the loaves and fishes for the feeding of the five thousand in John chapter 6. Next time I am the hungry, suffering child of God, I will recall Brian’s confidence that this boy will show up with the sustenance for body or soul that I need. What I need to do is recognize him when he arrives in any form (it will not necessarily be a boy — Brian said, one time for him, it was MLP) and receive the food offered to me. How could my heart not be enlarged with faith by the gift of this image?
Margaret Aymer gave More Light Presbyterians an astounding gift in her sermon on Sunday morning in the worship hour of Third Pres, Rochester. She talked about “July 10A,” as she called it – the day when Amendment 10A became G-2.0104 and the exclusion of openly LGBT Presbyterians from ordained office came to an end in the PCUSA. Margaret acknowledged the human desire and tendency to proclaim, “Mission Accomplished!,” However in the face of that temptation, she reminded us of the foundation of our vision, the last lines of John Robinson’s prayer, “We Limit Not the Truth of God,” “”That you have yet more light and truth to break forth from your word.” As this was, so it is now.
The challenging truth Margaret highlighted for us came from Matthew 18:21-35, where, in the parable of the slave who is forgiven and then refuses to grant forgiveness to his debtors, judgment and forgiveness among us are placed under God. What a message to More Light Presbyterians, inspiring us to seek God’s leading light!
Another highlight for me was when Ruling Elder Cindy Bolbach, Moderator of the PCUSA General Assembly, indicated to us (as I heard her words) that the mission of More Light Presbyterians has taken root in the heart of the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Middle Governing Bodies Committee and the Special Committee on the Church in the 21st Century are just two examples of the PCUSA acknowledging that God has yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s word concerning the structures and life of the our church. What God has in store for the PCUSA must be something new.
For that matter, the Fellowship of Presbyterians – in its exploration of possibilities – is showing the same kind of faith in the heart of God that will reveal yet more light and truth from the Word, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
My soul was enlarged to comprehend God’s love by these days in Rochester in a host of ways. I hope you get a glimpse of that here and will check out mlp.org for more reporting on the conference. Most of all, to see that all of us in the PCUSA, in various ways, are living John Robinson’s ancient prayer prompts me to ask this question:
Is there any reason why we can’t seek more light and truth together? Wouldn’t that communal effort enlarge our hearts to comprehend God’s love?
Reverend Janet Edwards