Saturday, September 13, 2008

Your Comfort and Mine

How uncomfortable am I willing to be to make you more comfortable? Paul writes in Romans and Corinthians about the importance of putting others first. "We do not live to ourselves." (Romans 14:7) If I am to live 'to you' then I must not only accept your ways, (religious customs and law ) I must modify my actions if they disturb you to the point of impacting your faith walk. What does that mean in daily life?

A few years ago, I attended my first Love Feast with a congregation where I was new. I entered the room which was set up for the meal early while the (mostly) women were completing preparations. Love Feast consists of a time of confession, a meal of simple food, feetwashing, and communion. I had never worn a prayer covering. I read the Corinthians texts related to coverings to indicate they show a man's authority over the woman. As a pastor, it seemed incongruous to wear a prayer covering and hold a leadership role or  'authority' in the church. Yet I knew that one day, I might be challenged by women for whom the covering holds much deeper symbolic meaning of piety and faithfulness. This was the night of challenge and it came as a simple gracious offering of a prayer covering.  

I believe it was offered in hospitality that the new person, arriving without a covering, might feel at home and be loaned one to wear. I knew my reply might challenge this sister's faith and understanding of tradition. When she offered me a cover, I declined saying, "I choose not to wear a covering, but if it offends you for me not to be covered, then I will be happy to wear one." The sister let me wait what seemed like an hour while she gave it serious thought. Someone interrupted her thinking and asked, "Well, does it bother you if Nancy doesn't wear a prayer covering?" Finally, she said, "No, actually, I've been at other Love Feasts where women didn't wear the covering. I guess I'm fine with you not wearing one." Whew, what relief. (I can still feel the sweat on my neck.) I thanked her and we went off to the sanctuary together, she with head covered and me uncovered to pray and be reconciled to God.

That day I made the right decision and was met with openness for a different way of being. I have not always managed the right response, nor been greeted so graciously. And someday, I'll be challenged on this or a similar point and then, what then? Who will be the one "weak in faith?" and Who will be living to Christ?

No comments: