How do we deal with conflict in the church? Certainly not by pointing fingers and calling folks out during worship. But worship can be the place where we remember under whose authority we stand. It can be a reminder of the common mission we claim and the shared commitment that we have to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It is a reminder that we sometimes need to move ourselves off the center so that place can be claimed by the Lord we serve. It can be a time of reorienting, of finding what we share so that we can look at the conflict with a little bit of distance and objectivity.
Quarreling and testing are common human experiences; we in the church do not claim freedom from that. The parable from Matthew asks us to pay attention to whether our words match our deeds. Do we live out the faith that we profess? Do we approach even those with whom we disagree with grace and love?
So, confession might be appropriate for this service. An acknowledgment that we have fallen short of the ideals we profess can be paired with an opportunity for a renewed commitment to let our lives be more congruent with our faith. Maybe the commitment needs to include some ritual action, kneeling at the altar, writing our intentions down, joining with others in prayer and promise, perhaps. There are many ways we can signal our intention to walk in the light we see, even as we seek more light. But also hear the forgiveness that is offered and accept the assurance that we are indeed surrounded by God’s grace for the long haul.
We can then move to claiming the vision of who we are called to be. We sing of our mission, of the promise to move out into the world living out the hope that is within us. The benediction is a sending into mission, an encouragement to live out our faith in the world of our everyday living. This is how we endure for the long haul.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.