By Jimmy R. Watson
“What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes?”
– James 4:1
I have a confession to make, one that can’t be made lightly: I ate too much pie during the previous holiday season. I gobbled, grazed, and gorged my way through pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies. The scales don’t lie.
Fortunately, as a pastor I don’t have to wait until the holiday season for pie. Pie is one of the most ubiquitous things there is in a pastor’s life. Sometimes it feels as if I am feasting on pie as much as scripture. To call a good pie divine is not far from the spiritual truth. And yet for me, pie is best served with a little ice cream or whipped cream on top … à la mode!
The other thing that is ubiquitous in every season of a church’s life is conflict. Conflict is as common among congregations as pie is at church potlucks. I have never served a conflict-free church and I never will. The Chicago Cubs will win a World Series before I ever stand in a conflict-free pulpit on a Sunday morning.
Just as pie often comes a la mode, conflict is often served with a little extra as well. I call this “conflict à la mode” or crisis. There doesn’t always have to be a heap of crisis on top of a conflict, but when there is we shouldn’t fret too much. The beauty of a crisis (as weird as that sounds) is that it brings the conflict to the surface for everyone to see. This provides an opportunity to deal with a conflict that has been “lingering in the refrigerator” far too long.
I’m not saying we should intentionally serve all of our conflict à la mode with a little crisis on top, but when the crisis finally occurs—and it will—we can thankfully deal with it and get back to the fun part of congregational life: eating lots of pie!
God of opportunity, may you be as ubiquitous as pie at a church dinner and as familiar to us as congregational conflict. More importantly, may you be the source of our congregational healing. Amen.
Jimmy R. Watson is the Pastor of St. Andrew United Church of Christ, Louisville, Kentucky.