This past Sunday, a good crowd of you gathered in Kelly Auditorium for the first Sunday of our churchwide summer Sunday School class. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that we are reading Rev. Adam Hamilton’s book, Making Sense of the Bible, looking carefully at the big picture of scripture, studying the narrative arc of both the Old and New Testaments, and asking questions about how we should read these ancient texts in our modern context. As we began, I shared with everyone four guidelines for our common work together this summer, guidelines that, as I read them again, could apply to any part of our shared life together as a church. I offer them to you in love:

  1. We all come into fellowship with one another with strong opinions about things in scripture and nagging questions about theology, deep places of doubt and pain and pockets of indescribable inspiration. Please don’t check these at the door, but instead bring your full and honest self to our conversations together! No matter who you are or what you think, this space will be safe for all of us to engage wholeheartedly with God.

  2. Knowing that each of us come with different experiences of the Bible and varying levels of engagement with a life of faith, we are going to agree to listen to one another with genuine openness. That means in the course of our conversations, we don’t start formulating our argument to someone else’s opinion while they’re talking, and then blast them before they can even finish. We are not here to argue or to belittle, to defend or intentionally disagree. My yoga teacher reminds our class each session that everyone remembers their first yoga class, so we who are more practiced are to be hospitable to new folks in the same way we needed that hospitality ourselves when we too began. Thus, many of us remember earlier times in our lives when we’ve been new or unexamined on matters of faith. In the same way that others around us walked with us through those seasons, we will do that for each other. And we do this because we trust that God is at work in our midst, drawing us into beloved community for such a time as this.

  3. We live in a day and age where all the information we ever need is quite literally in our pockets and at our fingertips. And yet, we’re going to trust that none of us have all the answers, and none of us is ‘right’ on everything. I certainly don’t know it all, and I’m confident that I make mistakes when it comes to understanding God! We’re also going to assume that each and every one of us, no matter if we are 9 or 90, still have things to learn. So the third guideline is to assume that God is still forming us, even this very hour!

  4. Finally we will approach our work together with seriousness and playfulness, finding that sweet spot that delights in uncovering the work of God through these ancient words. In so doing, we will be prayerfully discerning about how God’s Spirit stirs us to new discovery!

This describes precisely the posture I will assume this week, as I and several others from our staff and church travel to Dallas for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual General Assembly. Our larger Baptist family is “forming together” in the midst of difference and a rapidly changing context for ministry. In so doing, our Fellowship is trusting that the God who drew us together more than 25 years ago is still at work in and among us, calling us ever more fully to God’s heart of love for all. May it be so — with CBF, with First Baptist Church, and with all the world!

Together in the work of Love,
Pastor Emily

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