Come, Spirit, Come. NOW! Sunday, May 15, 2016

“Live your life with love, following the example of Christ…” – Ephesians 5:2 (CEB)

I tried to write Friday night, but I couldn’t.  I tried to read Friday night, but I couldn’t.  I even tried to just watch television Friday night, but I couldn’t.  There was no energy to do anything.  I just cried….

It started right before the afternoon break in our legislative committee work.  For the last two General Conferences, I haven’t reached this point until Tuesday or Wednesday of the second week.  It only took until Friday this time.  Don’t take me wrong.  There are moments of great joy, celebration, and true relationship building at our UMC General Conference.  Yet, there are moments that make your heart break.  Friday afternoon, that came as individuals stood to make speeches for or against a petition, using every political and parliamentary maneuver to try to influence the process, offering every “code word” to sway votes.  It breaks my heart that my fellow United Methodists – on both sides of issues – act this way.  But sadly, it’s not just here in Portland.  It’s in almost every local faith community, of every tradition, in every setting.  So I cry…for my own doubts and questions of faith, for my church, for our country which finds itself in exactly the same place we are as a denomination, for the world.

And I celebrate…the awesome experience of being a connectional church.

  • I received a text message on Friday morning that reminded me of the sounds of the trumpets, only to walk into worship to the music of a brass small ensemble.  And leading that and other worship experiences have been people of all cultures, colors, ability levels, languages, sizes and shapes.  There was even a gospel choir from Norway that had us all out of our chairs. Yes, a gospel choir from Norway…not where those of us in the U.S. would expect a rousing gospel song to come from, but it was amazing.  These have been the most wonderfully diverse worship experiences, calling us all to recognize the gifts of all people.
  • On Thursday, I sat beside a woman from Mozambique who speaks very little English and tried my best to communicate.  The next day, I walked by the table where she was sitting and suddenly heard, “Where are you going?”  I knew I was to turn around and take my appointed place beside her, if for no reason other than her feeling of acceptance and security.
  • As the tears began to flow on Friday, a new friend from Sierra Leone came over, put her arm around me and said, “We all want the same thing, but it will only come in God’s time.”  While I don’t like the idea of waiting, it was her gesture of love that was important. She made sure to sit beside me when we changed spaces.
  • As those tears continued, a staff member from Discipleship Ministries came to check on me, letting me know that the staff had seen my Facebook post from earlier and wanted to support me.
  • I was invited to join a lunch conversation this morning.  When we gathered, it was me and three young clergy – one from Colorado, Montana, and Pennsylvania.  What an honor to be the old, lay person invited into this holy time of fellowship.
  • There are important decisions ahead that will greatly impact the life of our denomination. There will be more tears – and there will be more celebrations of what it means to truly be United Methodists.  Our deepest Wesleyan values do not rest on decisions around human sexuality. They are built upon our understanding of grace, our belief that we cannot keep our faith to ourselves – that whole idea of the connection between personal piety and social holiness, and our recognition that we are not an institution, but living examples of Jesus’ love that if we really put our minds to it could change this crazy world.

I’ve seen all kinds of blogs and posts by clergy from all parts of the world in this last week.  Many have talked about the Wesleyan quadrilateral, missiology, theology, and UMC polity.  Maybe my lay understanding is too simple, but fact is that everything comes down to trust, and we have very little – with each other or church leaders.  I honestly think that it is all because we don’t trust ourselves to lean into the Holy Spirit and give up control to a power much greater than ourselves. We’ve never really learned that important teaching from Jesus of giving up everything to follow him. Pure and simple.

On this day of Pentecost, may the fire of the Holy Spirit fill our hearts, take over our souls, and do something totally outrageous and unexpected among us!

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