Differences of Opinion
By Father Andrew Harrison
As part of continuing education for clergy I attended the Pastoral Institute at St. Vladimir's Seminary in June. This Institute focused on the subject of healing. (In the future I will present new insights on healing that I learned at the conference). A workshop for choir directors was a part of the Institute. So all of the liturgical services held at that time included a 60-voice choir of professional singers. The services were truly heavenly. On the last day of the seminar, His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa (who came for an ordination), celebrated the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The sermon he gave at the Divine Liturgy is relevant for us at St. Luke. He began by addressing the resentment that occurs when people have differences of opinion. He said, "Blatantly, we seem to criticize anyone who does not agree with us." This can lead to bad feelings and ultimately to hatred.
As we proceed in our building program we are already seeing signs that differences of opinion exist. The light brick supporters are not in accord with the dark brick supporters, the risk takers' ideas differ from those of the cautious, and the extravagant are at odds with the frugal. Disagreements over carpet color, design, and cost may also arise. Yet, none of this should be surprising, since God made us all unique. As such, each one of us sees the world differently.
In our church the icon of Pentecost is located above the altar. This portrays the unity of the Church, since at this time the Apostles all spoke in one voice but in different tongues. Together, all of the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. However, if we think this unity continued, we don't know the history of our Church. When the Apostles set out on their missionary journeys, they strongly disagreed about the best way to evangelize. Barnabas clashed with Paul, and Barnabas left him to do things the way he believed they should be done. Mark, a cousin of Barnabas, also abandoned Paul. This upset Paul so much that he refused to take Mark on his second missionary journey. Peter and Paul even disagreed about the requirements for Gentile conversion. This disagreement led to the first Church Council in Jerusalem. Before the Council, however, Christ intervened in a dream to convince Peter that he was wrong. (Acts 10:9-16) This certainly suggests that Peter, although the leader of the apostolic church, was not infallible, as some people believe he was.
Although there were disagreements among the Apostles, they all agreed on one thing. This is depicted in the Gospel of Matthew and read on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. (Matt 16:13-19) Jesus asked the Apostles, "Who do you say that I am"? Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Christ then told Peter, "On this rock I will build My church," and He informed the Apostles that the gates of hell would not win over it. This statement of Christ implies that building His church is not easy, but it can certainly be done.
The Epistle reading for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul reveals the troubles Paul had in his missionary work. (2 Cor. 11:21-12:9) In fact, trouble could be Paul's middle name. (It is interesting that a Paul heads our Building Committee). St. Paul was beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. He endured perils from robbers, Jews, and Gentiles. He speaks of dangers in the wilderness, city, sea, and of false brothers, of weariness, toil, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, and nakedness. Despite all of this, Paul never lost his deep concern for the church. As a good shepherd he affirmed, "The more I abundantly love you, the less I am loved." (2 Cor. 12: 15) He was concerned that differences of opinion might lead to disunity and bad feelings. Paul pleaded with the Corinthians, in the name of Jesus Christ, to avoid divisions among them and to speak all together with one mind. (1Cor.1: 10)
Oneness of mind can best be seen in the icon of Sts. Peter and Paul. Both saints had strong differences of opinion, yet they are portrayed embracing each other. I believe that this icon should be the symbol of our building program. The foundation of Christ's church is love and forgiveness. We are instructed to love each other as Christ loved us and gave up His life for us. Peter and Paul gave up their lives for Jesus Christ and His church, and we are called to do the same. They both died in the city of Rome on June 24, 67 AD. O Holy Apostles Peter and Paul pray to God for us.
Let us pray to the Lord. Lord have Mercy
O Lord, You pray to Your Father that we love each other as You love us.
You gave up Your life for us, and You are asking us to do the same for You. Your Apostles
Peter and Paul gave us an example of what love is by maintaining their love for each other
even when they had strong differences of opinion. Through the prayers of Sts. Peter and
Paul, we ask You to keep us united in our task to build Your church. We pray that Your
church continues to be founded on the rock of faith so that the gates of hell cannot
prevail against it. For You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God. We pray
this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.