It is Tuesday night around 9:40pm. It has already been close to 7 hours since the beginning of the Presbytery meeting and most of the 350 or so commissioners (all those who have the power to vote), are still there in this large sanctuary. The soft hauntingly beautiful music begins to play and soon the sanctuary is filled with the glorious, angelic voices of a choir. We all begin to stand and head to the front of the sanctuary to the Table that unites us, where we would partake of the bread and wine of communion and then stand hand in hand as we circle the outskirts of the sanctuary, singing, “Let us break bread together on our knees, let us break bread together on our knees. When I fall on my knees, with my head to the rising sun. . .” Doesn’t that sound like a beautiful way to end a long meeting/gathering of fellow Presbyterians, fellow Christian from the greater San Francisco bay area as we usher in and rest in the presence of Jesus among us. And yet it was the single most difficult thing that I had to do that night. As I held my 4 year old son, it took all of my energy to put one foot in front of the other, to stand in line, to take communion and hold hands in a circle with those I barely knew or didn’t know at all.
You see, just a few minutes earlier, there was a very crucial vote taken in our presbytery, a presbytery that consists of just over 80 congregations. Actually, it was a wonderful way to take such an important vote. It was taken in the midst of worship. With the crisp clear voices of soloists and the choir in the background, with scripture read by our presbytery moderator Chuck Fry, such as “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in all”, whose voice by the way is like the voice of God or angels and who I could listen to all day even if he was reading the yellow pages, we all took a vote. It was an important vote. It was a vote to pave the way for our LBGT brothers and sisters to be fully included into the life of our church. In the overall scheme of things in the Presbyterian Church (USA), a yes vote by this one presbytery may have not made too much of the difference this year, but this is MY presbytery, a church that I dearly love. And this year, by the vote of 177-167, we, the body of Christ, couldn’t make possible the way for full inclusion of all of our brothers and sisters. As the results were read, my heart was heavy, saddened and my eyes filled with tears. I hurt for the fellow brothers and sisters. I was ashamed (an immediate Asian response). I was angry.
When I checked the presbytery packet a week before the meeting, I read through this part of the agenda and thought how wonderful it was to have this critical and divisive vote be part of a worship service. And especially ending with communion to signify that we are still united under Christ made such sense to me. But as the vote was read and the music began to play to signal our moment to come forward, I couldn’t do it. My legs wouldn’t move and my feet felt like dead weight. I only stood up and began to move because I was holding my 4 yr old son who was such a trooper to sit with me all that time during this long meeting. It was my son who asked me what was happening in this part of the meeting and what people were discussing. It was because of him that I began to move slowly toward the front of the church to take communion with all those in the room, for I wanted to live out what I have always told him that even in the face of vast differences, we should still love and respect the other. I wanted to show him now and then to tell him someday that even at times when Christians so vehemently disagree with each other, we can and should be able to worship together. But I have to say that it was difficult. It was difficult to approach the table, the table where Jesus ate with and welcomed all, when we as the church, just minutes ago, voted to exclude some of our brothers and sisters from that exact table. And it was difficult still to stand in a circle and hold hands with those who stood at my right and left, those I didn’t know and who may have voted for the perpetuation of exclusion of certain members in our churches.
The last line of the song “Let us Break Bread Together” is “Lord have mercy on me”. That is the last line of every verse in the song. “Lord have mercy on me.” As I stood in the circle and meditated on those words, my immediate thought was for God to have mercy on us for what we have just done. But as I closed my eyes and began to meditate a little more deeply, I realized that I was the one who needed mercy. After this song was finished, a single voice began to sing “Amazing Grace” and others soon followed. I became visibly angry. It took all my power not to let go of the hands I was holding and walk away from the circle. The words to this song would not come out of my mouth. Where was the “Grace” that we are singing about in the decision that was just made? But again upon deeper mediation, then and as I think about it now, it was me who needed the grace, for all those who stood in the circle in that room did not take their decisions lightly. They all voted, like me, after deep searching and with prayerful hearts, minds and souls. Who am I to disrespect and question their integrity? Who am I to hate them for the decision that came from their hearts and voted with their conscience? Who am I to thwart the love and unity in Christ even in the midst of such divisiveness? In the very moment that I thought I should be asking God’s forgiveness for our decision, which I still did, I was asking forgiveness for myself. I felt saddened that the hands of those I was holding was defined by this one vote rather than the many other things that may unite us. And I was dismayed that when push comes to shove, instead of acceptance and love, it became almost impossible to even worship with those who had different views from mine.
Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound
That Saved a Wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see.
I am not sure I can completely say that I “see” the way God does for I know that I am still partially “blind”, but I can certainly say that indeed God finds me and saves me over and over again. Amazing grace.