People continue to ask me if I’ve “recovered” from the Called UMC General Conference. I know they are asking that question with the best intent. My response is consistent: just when I think I’m doing better, something happens that puts me right back to February 26th. I liken it to a post traumatic stress response. Yet I feel badly using that description because my response is nothing like what those living with true PTSD experience.
Email and Facebook messages are coming once again in anticipation of Annual Conference. And I am headed right back down the same path that I thought I was stepping off.
Yesterday, one message ended with these words: “I trust you to be a better person than to believe that your way is the way of love and the way of others is not.”
My day started today with these questions about why I was not accepting of “God’s will” as it was prayed for at the Called Session: “Don’t you believe in prayer? When did you stop? When you didn’t get your way?”
And one last statement: “Furthermore, do you really believe, ‘We should all be able to love and serve Jesus together no matter what our understandings’?” (My words from a recent Facebook post are the ones in single quotes.)
Since the day in April of 1961 when I was baptized at the font of Fieldale Methodist Church, I’ve experienced my share of unChristian-like behavior in church, when we’ve quarreled over ministries (and ministers); when feelings have been hurt and hearts damaged; when we have forgotten that we – the people – are the church, not a building; and when we have failed to live as the people we claim to be – the people Jesus tried so hard to teach us to be. Despite all this, one of the main reasons I continue to be United Methodist is our understanding of grace. A loving God cares for me no matter how undeserving I may be. And that grace has been with me from my first moment. No person can give it to me or take it away: only God…and God did all that work through Jesus on my behalf well before I came into this world. My job – that comes with the vow I repeat each time someone is baptized or joins the church — is to live like I believe it. That’s the true meaning of our baptism: God’s grace is with us throughout our entire journey of faith, through good and bad, and in return, we are to share that same unconditional love with others through our words and actions.
I love the congregational response that is in the Baptismal Covenant II service in our hymnal.
With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.
There must have been something strange in that water from the Smith River in Fieldale. I still believe that the words spoken by the congregation as that water was placed on my head 58 years ago mean something. I’m still searching for that community of love and forgiveness, but I know there was something in that water that I’m called to live by, to advocate for, to move on toward perfection to reach. There must have been….