James Krabill, an executive of Mennonite Mission Network, offered this benediction at the Waterford Mennonite Church. He learned it from pastors in India. Read it and ponder:
Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God the Father be with you,
and may the Holy Spirit come upon you;
and trouble you,
and set before you an impossible task
and dare you to do it,
until in your desperation
you fall on your knees
and remain there (“tarry” in the original)
and he fills you with his power
which alone will enable you to do it,
and then . . . but only then,
may the Lord grant you peace.
The benediction took me back to the story of Roberta Showalter Kreider’s spiritual pilgrimage. For 58 years of her adult life she had no personal knowledge or understanding of homosexuality. Within two weeks of her youngest brother’s death she learned that he was gay, and dying of aids.
For ten more years Roberta held fast to the traditional view of scripture. So, even though it was her brother, whom she loved, she came out stronger and stronger against all homosexuality. For her, when the Bible said it she believed it, BUT that did not settle it! For those ten years she prayed that gay people would come to her so she could help them but no one came to her for help. She now knows that no one needed the kind of help she would have offered them.
When Germantown Mennonite Church respected the friendship of same sex couples, her husband Harold’s conference membership required him to vote whether or not to discipline that church. Roberta and Harold agreed that it would not be fair to judge persons they did not know. So to Germantown they went.
At Germantown church Harold and Roberta met gays and lesbians and listened to their stories of faith. Roberta and Harold were developing stories of their own. Roberta began to fear. What if Harold and she began to believe differently? Would she and Harold need to attend different churches? What would her family and friends say if they knew what she was thinking? The church had been wrong before and had changed and she had changed by cutting her hair. Suppose the church was wrong about homosexuality?
Roberta’s fears were not unlike those of a gay person before coming out of a closet. Was it the Spirit of the Indian pastoral benediction that disturbed and troubled Roberta till she began to collect stories and publish books that told the faith of gays and lesbians?
Some fear that the Mennonite Church is yielding to the pressure of worldly society. But I ask, may not the church be yielding to the Spirit-wind that blows in the direction of love, and changed Roberta Showalter Kreider into the prophetess she became?