Greetings! I am an Elder in the United Methodist Church. I cherish this gift from God and with it comes responsibility. Responsibility to move the Gospel, and the words and messages of the Prophets forward in my life and in the lives of others.
My beautiful tradition is my Christian faith and practice. However, I do not believe that Christianity holds an exclusive response to God’s presence among us. There are many ways of worship and prayer from many cultures which we as human beings use to look with awe upon Creation and its continuing growth and maturity. As we are humans, prone to selfish desires of greed, power, neglect of the needs of others and so forth we need the guidance of a ‘force’ and ‘energy’ beyond our realm to steer us toward love, generosity, hospitality and inclusion. We do not live in isolation.
Today, the United Methodist Church is publicly (other religious traditions have gone before us and others will continue this experience in the future) facing the issue of LGBTQ inclusion or continued exclusion. This is a reflection of our greater society worldwide.
We are experiencing both hurtful and loving expressions from Methodists to Methodists. Division of property, financial resources for mission nationally and worldwide and other Denominational institutions which have served us for hundreds of years seems very real. We all hurt at one time or another in our lives for so many reasons. We need to tend to those who are hurt as well as to those who do the hurting. Let us remember these words from well over 2,000 years ago – “I have called you by name, you are mine. You are precious in my sight and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1,4) Amidst the anger and hurt I am hopeful that we remember these words of God as spoken to and heard by Isaiah.
Our beloved Christian community has been divided for centuries. This is not new; it is just the more current issue that brings feelings and experiences to us. In the early 1st Century the separation of Jews and those who followed Jesus was divisive and led to violence, hurt feelings, exclusion and more. For too many communities and individuals even today this rage of anti-Semitic and racist practices sadly and tragically continues.
The Reformation divided and led to violence and cruelty by ‘both sides’. The Nazi’s hated and feared so much that they horribly wasted human life, theirs and others. We still hurt today. We hurt so much because one person or community feels so certain that they are ‘right’. Religion excludes people daily for many reasons. We are human and prone to sins of pride, neglecting humility and love of neighbor and love of God.
We are not called to judge how others live in love and affection with one another. Love is boundless as is the Creation. We are small seeds in a huge universe. But as seeds we hold the potential to live as God intended – with God’s image embedded within us. All of us. I feel pain for those excluded and I feel pain for those who believe they need to exclude.
Yet, I believe in hope. God did not stop speaking to us two thousand years ago. God, the Force of Love, King of the Universe, The ِBeneficient/ All-Compassionate/ Most Gracious Being and Presence, Yahweh, (and countless other references to the Almighty, the Creator and Lover of the Universe) … This great, eternal and glorious entity did not stop speaking to us two thousand years ago. Nor did we stop listening two thousand years ago to God. The list of those who have heard God speak is nearly endless (Henri Nouwen, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Gerald May, John O’Donohue, David Canada, Thich Nhat Hanh, The Dalai Lama, Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Carl Lugn (my Dad), Helen Lugn (my Mom), Ray Leonardini, Amy Jill Levine, Marjorie Thompson, Nan Phifer, Harold Kushner, The Prophet Muhammad, Evelyn Underhill, Georgia Harkness, Bishop Cho, Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, Joan Chittister –(I know I am leaving out so many people of God!) I am grateful the list is so long!
Let us put aside fear and embrace Life. One of my favorite sayings is: “When everybody does better, everybody does better.” (W.F. “High” Hightower, as quoted in https://www.creators.com/read/jim-hightower/03/18/everybody-does-better-when-everybody-does-better )
Our understanding of Awe expands, reaches out to inform us, to love us and to include us in God’s Kingdom ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. Amen.