Ten years ago or so, the required text for one of the classes I took through Wesley Seminary for my certification in Older Adult Ministries was “Saving Jesus From Those Who are Right: Rethinking What it Means to be Christians” by Carter Heyward (1999). For Heyward, those who are “right” are any of us whose socio-political commitments are hardened fast and whose spiritual dispositions are tightly boundaried – people who are so sure they are “right” that they don’t notice the complexities of our world.
One of the most powerful statements in the book for me reads:
“…the only way we can live really creative, caring lives here on earth, lives rooted deeply in the Spirit, is to learn to struggle together – mutually – to build communities, institutions, and relationships in which everyone’s well-being is secured.”
As General Conference moves closer, I wonder what our United Methodist Church would look like if we were fully alive in the Spirit…
…if the fear of living passionately as disciples of Jesus was not ever present in our lives and churches –
…if the fear of following the Spirit’s leading didn’t cause us to retreat into the safety of church building walls, didn’t cause us to take our sides, didn’t cause us to question each other’s intentions.
Since becoming the chair of our delegation in June, I’ve been told many things which have filled me with fear: a fear of how the church looks and sounds to the world. I must admit that I’m afraid of and anxious about many things in my middle age these days: health concerns, retirement investments, Alzheimer’s disease, becoming an “elder orphan,” my house being too big and not accessible. However, none of them have to do with being afraid to struggle together in the church so that I might live a life deeply rooted in the Spirit and so that others may know the message of love that Jesus modeled.
The book I’ve been trying to read in the midst of petitions, letters, and email is Eugene Peterson’s “Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best” (2009). In it, Peterson writes:
“The aim of the person of faith is not to be as comfortable as possible but to live as deeply and thoroughly as possible – to deal with the reality of life, to discover truth, create beauty, act out of love…The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this day.”
Two writers, ten years apart. Both with a message I need to be reminded of this day.