I have been rather quiet on the blog front lately. However I have not been so quiet in the hallway outside my office. It seems that the status of my blog says nothing about how much my heart and mind have been processing lately. Anyone in the vicinity of my office gets to hear my rants and raves about so many different things, I thought why not put some into a blog.
I am a United Methodist and I am proud of a denomination that speaks about grace. I still believe there is something about an empty tomb that should take us to our knees while at the same time inspiring us to reach out to another. I don't like labels and to be honest, I don't like people who use them. If you want to call yourself a liberal, evangelical or a gooberhead, knock yourself out. However, please don't bash some group you have labeled because they happen not to completely agree with you using the Bible or God.
Yes, I am a pastor of a denomination that currently is not growing. I am of the opinion at the moment that it is not because we stand or don't stand in a particular camp on an issue. I think it is because we forgot that we are a denomination that loves the idea of grace and believes that there is something about an empty tomb that should take us to our knees while inspiring us to make a difference in someone else's life. In case you are into labels, in the purest sense - that would be evangelical (the empty tomb part) and a liberal or progressive (the reaching out to another part) coming together. Currently, we are just tossing out Scripture as if it is a sword for defense.
The United Methodists are gathered for their General Conference in Tampa, Florida right now. There will be many discussions (and other displays of opinion) about issues. I am the recipient of some of those discussions through the years. If people had not decided that women should be ordained in the United Methodist Church, I would not have the opportunities that I have before me today. So, I do not believe we should be silent on issues. However, I do believe that when the issue or agenda becomes bigger than the reason for the issue or agenda, we have a problem, Houston (or Tampa).
We are wasting a lot of time arguing about who is right and who is wrong. We spend emotional energy and too much Facebook, twitter and other communication space saying why someone else is stupid for believing what they believe. Judging another person for being judgmental doesn't seem to make sense to me. Our hearts should break, not only for the cause we are fighting but for one who disagrees with us. When that happens we find ourselves loving like Christ and the fight becomes a discussion for the kingdom.
I believe in a God that knows each of us intimately, loves us passionately and sent Jesus to reconcile the broken relationship between creation and creator. I believe that because of that gift I am called and drawn to embrace and serve others, even those that don't look, think or act like me. On some days I do that well, other days I really stink at it. Yet each day I am loved by God and forgiven through Christ's sacrifice and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We are not going to agree on what that means, but when we forget that is the reason for the discussion, we have forgotten what matters.