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The Rev. Mark Sargent Mark Sargent

Mark Sargent is a retired United Methodist minister who works in the private sector and resides in Rome, GA.

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Thoughts From the River That Runs Through It

August 02, 2009

By now, I hope you've had a chance to read or listen to my latest Day1 sermon and to catch my conversation with Day1 host Peter Wallace.  I hope that the message provokes thought in you and might be a starting point for stimulating conversation with others. 

Some of that conversation might take place here!  I appreciate Ozzie Smith's thoughtful response, especially his insight about the pushback that the Gospel always receives when it is audaciously proclaimed. 

Well, to the title of my blog.  Last week, I stayed for a few days on the banks of Montana's Gallatin River, THE river of "A River Runs Through It" fame.  I was there to conduct a wedding for friends of mine.  In addition to practicing Christianity, the groom's family is a Native American family.  So, I was deeply gratified when I learned that the groom's grandfather, a Kootenai Tribal Judge, would also be participating in the wedding service.  He delivered an inspiring and wise message, led in ritual ceremonies featuring a peace pipe and an eagle feather, and introduced a group of five men, who, accompanied by drum, sang a "friendship song" that was as deeply moving as any music I have ever heard. 

Following the service, many of the friends of the bride and groom spoke to me about the service and shared their words of encouragement.  By the way, the bride and groom are just a bit older than the young person I mention in my latest Day1 sermon.

Several of these young adults expressed appreciation for the ways in which Christianity and Native American spirituality were able to dwell together so beautifully in the service.  I responded by sharing what I thought to be a self-evident thing--that the two traditions are complementary, not exclusive in any way.  And, guess what response I received?  Yep.  Surprise.

And, there it was, yet again, in all its sad glory.  The Gap.  These young persons were surprised, even shocked, to hear a Christian pastor share a word that was accepting, not condemning, of other faith traditions that are not "Christian."   I wish that I had been recording those conversations with my Flip camera, so that you could witness how noteworthy these young people thought it was that a Christian pastor would value and accept all others, regardless of their faith tradition or their choice to live without any faith tradition. 

Ozzie is right.  Acceptance does create a pushback for some.  And, for others, acceptance creates good will and finds a home in the hearts of those many people who live a "Christian" life, regardless of whether they ever darken the doors of a church or subscribe to any Christian beliefs.  You can check out some thoughts on this broad topic I have shared before, archived in the Day1 sermon library on the first three Sundays of 2006, in a series entitled "Into the Brave New World." 

I encourage you to keep looking for the Gap.  You shouldn't have too much trouble locating it, so great it is.  And, when you discover it, or when it discovers you, there you have a remarkable place from which to practice the same love evidenced in the life of Jesus.  And, you will have participated in shrinking of that Gap!

More to come, I'm sure.


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