Okay. This is new and different for me. I am using my new ReMarkable tablet to write and create posts, however, the best I can do right now is post a picture of what I create. Although I appreciate comments, you can hold them about my penmanship. It will take you longer to read, but that is what experiments are all about. I’ll figure this out or some gifted reader will give me a tip.
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place
where he could be alone in prayer. Mark 1:35 (CEB)
Okay, we live in an age of where connecting with one another is as easy as taking a phone out of your pocket. Because of that, and because of social media, I sometimes think I know more about what is going on in my children’s lives now than I did when they were living at home. I also know that the house is a bit more quiet than it used to me, however, I am almost certain that our two cats are attempting to make up for that by fighting more often and more loudly. At the same time, I realize that Pam and I have much more time to just sit, talk and reconnect.
I’ve been at this “empty nest” thing for over a year now and truthfully, it hasn’t been all that bad. I miss my girls…but we are still connected. I loved watching them grow up…but now I am so very proud of all that they are becoming as young adults that I hardly notice.
And then there’s that time that Pam and I have to just reconnect as a couple. That’s nice, to say the least. It’s also crucial to any relationship.
Jesus took time away from the crowds that needed his teaching and healing and tried to find a place where he could connect again with the Father. Jesus walked away from his responsibility of leading the disciples so that he could spend time with the Father in prayer. Jesus was fully human and fully God and yet, and yet, Jesus found it absolutely necessary to take time to be alone with God.
I wonder how many times we have said, “Oh, I’ll have time for that later…” or let interruptions (cue the fighting cats) get in the way of our time to spend with God the Father.
So much of what ails our society today could be helped greatly with more Christians taking more time to just pray. It would cut down tremendously on the amount of time they spend finding things that make them angry and give responses before thinking about how those responses look in light of the Kingdom of God.
So much of what ails our society today could be helped tremendously if more Christians would take more intentional time to stop “doing things” and just spend time in prayer. Perhaps there, they would reconnect with the very Creator of the Universe and realize that there is not one single person in the world today that this Creator does not love.
So much of what ails our society today could be helped if Christians spent more time alone – empty nesting it – with God. Their relationship with God would grow stronger. They would know God better and in the process they would know themselves better. When we work on our identity as it stands with God, there is much less chance that we would seem one way one moment and another way the next.
Over the past month, I watched the horror of white supremacy raise its ugly head again in Charlottesville. And then I watched as white privilege tried to explain it all away. And then I watched people engage in battles of words that tore apart even more of the wasting fabric of humanity that we have left in this world.
And there is only one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to take everyone I could and say, “Hey, do you think we could pray for a while? Just take some time and pray for a bit? You know, reconnect with God the Father, Jesus the Savior, and the Holy Spirit a while?”
The Son of God did it…I can’t think of any good excuse for us NOT to do so.
The prophet cries
Till the prophet’s cry
Is silenced by those
The prophet acts
Till the prophet’s act
Is halted by those
The prophet dies
Then the prophet’s die
Is cast – aside –
Or lives to abide
Where the true self
Need never, ever hide.
O Jerusalem! O Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers who are sent to you. How often I wanted to gather in your children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing to come to Me.
Luke 13:34 The Voice
There exists among the clouds
A blue so deep
That it beckons to the ones
Scanning heaven for peace.
One side – then the other
Succumb to precipitous billows.
While the path of the deepest
Paints a song of pure light
From the sky, to the earth,
Through the eye, piercing soul,
The Via Media.
Do the actions of a few United Methodists threaten the entire denomination?
(A note to my readers: I have recently been engaging in quite a bit of debate with another United Methodist brother and blogger, Joel Watts, at unsettledchristianity.com over many of the events taking place in the UMC. After a protracted conversation over our first posts carried out on Facebook, we agreed to each write a post on “unity” and what that entails. I often say to Joel that I am not the theologian that he is. I am a pastor first and my theology grows from that work as a pastor. Like I say in the introduction to my blog, “Grace leads and I stumble along.”)
We can read about it in both national news and denominational resources. The United Methodist Church is struggling in the midst of learning how to be in ministry with people who are already in our fellowship. I refuse to say that we are struggling with the issues surrounding LGBTQ people because in my heart that reduces people to an issue. People are never an issue. People are children of God. As a church that affirms the sacred value of all persons, we recognize LGBTQ Christians as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
At the very same time, during a period when our denomination prepares for our quadrennial global gathering to work
on church doctrine and polity (re-write our Book of Discipline), there are events taking place among our churches, and by our clergy and bishops that some believe threaten the very unity of the church. In the last decade, a growing number of churches have become Reconciling Congregations. Lay people and pastors, such as myself, are joining support groups to understand how to best minister with this new community of believers and to become fully inclusive in our ministry. Some Clergy and Bishops are going against church polity by performing same gender weddings. In other places, entire Boards of Ordained Ministries are ignoring the prohibition in our shared Book of Discipline prohibiting the ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” In recent days, fifteen current or soon to be ordained clergy have proclaimed that they are homosexual and seeking continued appointment with the United Methodist Church. Some Bishops and episcopal candidates are saying in “somewhat nuanced” ways that they are not going to uphold the Discipline in all cases.
I have proba
bly not even come close to listing all the recent developments in our denomination concerning our relationships with LGBTQ people. But it gives us a place to start.
Some people believe that all of these actions, actions which some claim belittle our Book of Discipline and break the very vows that certain people made to uphold said Discipline, show that we are far from the “United” Methodist Church. A better name for us could be the Untied Methodist Church.
I graciously disagree.
r vows before God at baptism, confirmation, holy matrimony and/or ordination are an extremely important part of living our lives as Christians. However, I am yet to meet one Christian – even in the mirror – who has managed to keep those vows perfectly and without fail.
Does the parent who fails to bring up their baptized infant in the church show such brokenness that the unity of the church is called into question? Does the young adult who lays aside their vow to reject evil in all forms while they buy a pair of tennis shoes made with child labor show such brokenness in our Discipline and vow keeping that the entire unity of the Church is called into question? Does an adulterer who divorces one spouse and marries another so disgrace the body with their broken vow that our church lo longer hosts the presence of Christ? Does an Elder who lays aside the vow to keep the Discipline of the Church in order to pastorally proclaim Good News to a same sex couple sow such brokenness into the body of Christ that our very existence as a church is called into question?
No. No. No. And, no again – with all the grace I can muster.
I think we are better served to look at what it is that unites us in the first place – our first love, Jesus Christ. If you like the book of Revelation, read the letter to the church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7). This congregation was in danger of losing the very presence of Christ from their midst because they forgot their first love – the grace that Jesus had given them. Sure, they were facing terrible persecution at the hands of the Romans and could easily survive by “turning coats.” This historical church in Asia Minor gives us a great hint as to what it takes to completely lose the light of Christ within a body of believers. It is not lack of discipline, the loss of a Temple, broken vows, or even smashed tablets of stones. It is forgetting what unites us in the first place – Jesus!
Rev. Wesley, one of the founders of our movement known as United Methodism, said in his sermon “Cathol
Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works.
Rev. Wesley realized that we may never be of one opinion despite the fact that he worked hard to make sure that the “people called Methodist” shared in some common doctrine, polity, and worship even as they existed in the break-away or shunned Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. He provided this group with “The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America” which included Rev. Wesley’s “revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, ‘rectified’ and reduced to twenty-four in number.” Did Rev. Wesley somehow break his vow as an Anglican Priest by providing these “rectified” Articles to the new congregations forming apart from the Church of England? That argument could be made, however, it would not reduce for one moment what truly made the Methodists in the North America a body of unity. That was due to the love and presence of Christ in their midst and in the midst of the Church of England. Rev. Wesley’s ability to maintain his Church of England ordination and help establish this new denomination shows that shared “discipline” has little to do with the unity of the body of Christ.
A further look into Rev. Wesley’s life and advice to the Methodists under his care in England gives to me the hope I think we need to weather the storm that we are in right now. Throughout England there were priests who were so hopelessly corrupt and such terrible preachers that Wesley would often recommend that they be avoided – except when it came to receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
…people should not hesitate to take the Sacrament, even if administered by a wicked minister. He pointed out, from a practical point of view, that many (if not most) of the minister
s in his acquaintance for the last half century did not measure up to his basic criteria; they had ‘not been eminent either in knowledge or piety’ (Sermons, 3:471). But his principle in the matter is clear: ‘The unworthiness of the minister doth not hinder the efficacy of God’s ordinance. The reason is plain; because the efficacy is derived, not from him (sic) that administers, but from him that ordains it” (Sermons, 3:475). This statement was not only in keeping with Article XXVI of his own Church, but also had been fixed in Western Christendom as early as Augustine’s response to the Donatists.
The presence of Christ unites us. And that has not left the building, the gathering of delegates at General Conference in Portland or the denomination that is known as United Methodist. The one who ordained the Sacrament of Holy Communion still presents His body in one
piece and then offers it to us, broken, just as we are broken. Does the fact that we all receive just a part of this offering destroy the unity of the symbol of Christ’s Body that is presented in the Eucharist? No.
And neither does the brokenness that embodies the congregations called United Methodist. We will continue to receive the grace of Jesus and offer that grace to others just as scandalously as it has been given to me, to you, to all who have received Christ.
 I think it is important to note that our current Discipline prohibits our clergy from participating in ceremonies that celebrate same-sex unions or holding such ceremonies in our churches. However, this prohibition says nothing of weddings and marriages between same-sex couples. Some may think this is “splitting hairs,” however, many believe that there are great differences between the two.
 “Catholic Spirit” by Rev. John Wesley as found in John Wesley’s Sermons, An Anthology edited by Albert C. Outler and Richard P. Heitzenrater, page 301.
 Wesley and the People Called Methodist, Richard P. Heitzenrater, proof copy, Abingdon Press, 1993, page 289.
 Ibid, pp. 296-297.