This dragon sculpture may seem an odd adornment for a Church-based school, St. George's academy in Rhode Island. But St. George, whose feast day is April 23, was more than a legend, he was a real man and a martyr for the faith around AD 303 just before the time of Constantine. Legend has it that he saved a young lady (the king's daughter) and an entire village from a dragon of truly offensive breath. After subduing the dragon with his lance, George used the young woman's garter to fashion a leash and she led the beast humbly through the town. The people were in fear, but George used the attention he had captured to preach the gospel and lead hundreds to salvation. That's the legend.
The more harrowing tale begins with the pressure George felt the town was under from the pagan influence of the Emperor. The Christians cowered in fear. George, however, to break the silence, boldly stood in the town square and loudly announced his faith. After suffering numerous tortures, none of which were effective against the man's courageous stand for the faith, he was beheaded. The fear created by the Emperor, I suspect, is the real dragon he slayed. His symbol is the red cross ... the same one found at the center of Great Britain's Union Jack flag.
We may not have fire-breathing lizards menacing our communities, but we do have forceful, and fearful dragons cowing us and creating silence about our faith. We will not be beheaded, but we could be berated. To save our friendships, our jobs, our reputations, and our pride, we back away from openly acknowledging our faith. May the LORD give us the boldness of St. George to stand against the tide, and claim the identities given to us by our Savior.
As Mennonites we do not formally observe saints' feast days. In some ways, it is too bad. We have a poorer knowledge of our history as Christians because of our fear of over-emphasizing the saints. However, George teaches us the importance of courage as we counter-culturally live our faith in an antagonistic world.
Since December (as well as, of course, a long time before that) The Mennonite Church has been in a state of some anxiety over actions taken concerning the homosexual community by a couple organizations under our umbrella. These same anxieties are bound to become stirred any time, and for any reason, the long-held views of a group of people are challenged. The conclusion of these challenges always leads to change, whether in shifting to incorporate the new views or in reaffirming our commitments and seeing not the policies but the faces in our churches change. In any debate, no matter which way things go, the fallout is painful and the struggles are deeply felt by many.
A recent document released by Lancaster Mennonite Conference called Healthy Sexuality Resources: A Toolkit of Resources for Leaders and Congregations includes a selection of websites containing a number of important documents that shed light on the teachings of the Mennonite Church. The documents while clearly defining a position, also take a strong stand on love and forgiveness as well as repentance. Equally important, they discuss some other issues that tend to be obscured by the issue close at hand. I am including links to a few of the more focused of these sites for anyone who would like to take a look. The leadership of Lancaster Mennonite Conference has made comments and sent out documents that reaffirm our commitment to these statements and call for a renewed focus not on controversy, but on the mission of the Church: growing disciples for Jesus.
Pastor, Norma Mennonite Church.