In the authorized KJ version of the New Testament Philippians 3:8 reads,”Yea doubtless, . . . I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ . . ..” Chester Wenger had these words from Saint Paul on his mind when he wrote his letter to the Mennonite Church.
The context of chapter 3 begins in chapter 2 with an appeal for church unity through adopting the mind of Jesus. According to Paul, Jesus did not hold on to the status of deity, but counted it as nothing, letting go of it to serve humanity. In chapter 3, saint Paul had the mind of Jesus when he let go of his superior position among Jews by counting his status nothing, in order to know Jesus among the Gentiles.
New saints have emerged in the writing of a modern day chapter. Chester and Sarah Jane Wenger were like Jesus and Paul when they turned away from the assets accumulated through a full life of honored ministry. They considered the whole batch worthless, useless and waste in order to follow Christ as they understood him when Chester married their gay son to his partner in variance to Mennonite Church guidelines.
When Paul described his assets he used a Greek word that occurs only one time in one verse of the New Testament. In the KJV it is translated “dung”. Later translations are more polished. In the draft of an earlier blog I used a word to which My Joy objected because she deemed it to be vulgar. I yielded to her sensitivity because many seniors would likely share her feelings. I remembered that if I had used that word as a child I would have been reprimanded.
I don’t know how much St. Paul knew about the farming practices of his day, but he must have had close encounters with the excrement of donkeys, camels, and oxen while traveling from city to city. An environmentalist informed me that the proper name for excrement of animals is “scat.” From now on I will conform.
As the son of an organic farmer I know the value of chicken scat. I know how to build a compost pile made of the “stinky” stuff, straw, and a little soil. Water it down, turn it over occasionally, and after a few months of transformation by bacteria it has the sweet smell of compost that could be used to nurture berries, vegetables and flowers to sell on the farmers market in Chambersburg.
I feel that Sarah Jane and Chester Wenger have turned 96 years of scat into a compost with which they honored a gay son and his companion by marriage. This act may bring luxurious bloom and fruit to a wilting church. That is, if other brothers and sisters will likewise count their Biblical and world views and traditions to be nothing but scat to be composted. Doing so they will take the mind of Christ and promote the unity and fruitfulness of the church.