Today's reading from the gospel according to Matthew 18:21-35 continues last week's reading and is about conflict. My reflection last week showed how the bible knew conflicts within churches would happen. Communities are made of people and people will disagree with each other. But conflict isn't a sign of the community being broken. As long as we commit ourselves to love and serve each other with grace, we will be strong. And we can serve each other with love and grace because our community includes someone important. Jesus is here and Jesus inspires us to serve one another.

Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive each other. Jesus' answer is surprising because he says to forgive an unlimited amount of times. Jesus focused on what we can do. We cannot control other people but we can control our own response. When we are safe, we can forgive. When we are loved and allowed a life to live, forgiveness helps us break the bonds holding us back. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is ending the hurt inflicted on us to continue to limit who we are. When we forgive, we are loving ourselves by not letting hurt hold us back. 

So how can we forgive like Jesus says we should? We start by first knowing who we are. In May, the Church Council voted to start a process to figure out who we are as a community. The process we are using is called Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry focuses on what we do well as a community. It identifies our gifts. When we focus on our strengths, we discover who we are and where we come from. When we know who we are, our disagreements stay rooted in our shared identity as a community. As a community of faith, Jesus invites us to have difficult conversations. He wants us to ask how we can serve our neighbors in new ways and what that might mean for our identity as a community. We need to ask difficult questions. We need to see how our faith and shared identity as followers of Jesus address issues like same-gender weddings, gender identity, racism, politics, and more. These conversations are hard but they can go well when we know ourselves. 

The council is putting together a team who will start this process within the next few months. You will be invited to meet with a fellow church member for a one-on-one conversation. You'll be invited to share your story. Once everyone in the church is interviewed, we will move into developing a shared vision of who we are and where we believe God is taking us. This process will take time and you'll hear more about it in our next issue of the Messenger. I'm excited about what this process will uncover and look forward to seeing how the Spirit inspires us in new and exciting ways. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.