I'm not a smoker. In fact, I don't think I've smoked a cigar in over a year. On the rare occasion that I head to the humidor, it's usually because I have some heavy thinking to do. It's not a "victory cigar" (a la Red Auerbach)...it's more like the reflective exchange between Bilbo and Gandalf in Fellowship of the Ring. My cigar nights are always spent in the company of a close friend or loved one. It is a time to ponder the hypothetical...share deep personal feelings...or dream up solutions to all the world's problems.
Tonight is the first cigar night that I've been alone...
...well, with God, that is.
I've spent most of the week following the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly on-line. As I've listened to the sexuality discussions in the plenary sessions, I rarely paid attention to the personal stories of those at the microphones. For whatever reason, I wanted to wrap my head around the various points of view on the issues at hand and not invest in the attempts of people to tug at my heart strings. I desired to sift through agendas, motions, and amendments so I could come to a clear understanding of what was being debated and how it would impact the church.
So it is odd that, as God and I share a cigar on this night, we're spending a lot of time talking about people...stories...friends.
We're thinking of the gay, life-long Lutheran who couldn't come to terms his own homosexuality until his church did.
We're thinking of the Bible scholar who desperately wanted to vote "yes" on the social statement on sexuality and the resolutions on ministry policies, but couldn't do it because of those darn verses in Scripture that condemn homosexuality.
We're thinking of the old couple who will never again call themselves a Lutheran because they feel their church turned its back on God's Word.
We're thinking of the woman who recently fell in love with another woman and will finally begin the process of becoming a pastor because she can do so without fear of being defrocked.
We're thinking of the faithful, devout, compassionate mother who feels like a bigot for not wanting to be in a church where openly gay people in committed relationships can serve as her pastor.
We're thinking of person who will start going to church again because the church has said that he's fully welcome.
We're thinking of the pastor who can't wait to bless the union of gay couples in his congregation.
* * *
It's been a good conversation. We haven't solved any problems per se, but it has been important to consider the personal implications of this corporate decision. Some interesting days lie ahead.
The cigar has disappeared into the night sky. Our conversation is done, for now. The conversations with the aforementioned friends will begin anew in the days ahead. I only hope that I will be able to speak to everyone with the kind of grace, patience, and respect that Lutherans have been able to show one another in these last few days.
"We meet one another finally, not in our agreements or our disagreements, but at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ." ~ Bishop Mark Hanson