I am persuaded that that it is to the latter that we are called. Now would be a great time to claim this pattern for living. It can and will make an enormous difference in the church and in the world. It may seem like a small and insignificant thing to be so claimed by God’s love in Jesus Christ that our way of being is marked by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. But it is the little ostensibly insignificant things that make a world of difference. After all wasn’t it just Christmas and we were celebrating the gift of life in a fragile, vulnerable baby; a seemingly insignificant birth of just another poor kid. What a world of difference he has made. What about us?
What if the efforts of this season to come along side the needy continued with the same intensity all year long? After all the rearrangement of our priorities around the things of God, but especially being in solidarity with the poor, was never intended to last for just four or five weeks. “when the time had fully come God sent forth the Son” not just to save or change us for a few weeks. No, the plan was and his to change us and the whole cosmos for ever.
All Saints Day is a specific opportunity to not only remember but to be re-membered to the whole Christian communion. We are bound to all Christians in every time and place. That is a humbling, awe inspiring and scary thought. It’s not hard to think about the best qualities and characteristics of other disciples that we admire. Those things tend to humble and awe us. The scary part is that we are also connected to fellow disciples with all of their warts and shortcomings. But the miracle and mystery is that God manages to use us warts and all. And the extraordinary good news is that God desires to perfect us in God’s love.
I want to assure you that I haven’t the slightest interest in our becoming more conscientious about the evangelistic task because we are motivated by the getting more members to help pay the bills. That is frankly unworthy of the gospel and of us. We bear witness in all that we do to the transforming power of Jesus Christ because we are in love with Jesus and want to others to fall in love with him too. We are called to bear witness to the power of the Risen Christ because we love the world that God loves.
Dozens of nations around the world designate a day of the year to recognize and honor the dignity of honest work. Not all do it on the first Monday of September. Such days are also an opportunity to think about workers and their right to work and to do so in safety, free from fear and oppression and to earn a fair and decent living. Of course we cannot help but think about those who are currently unemployed.
It will come as no surprise to you that this first year for me has been filled with learning. In one sense everything is new. Listening and inquiring have been my key tools to come to know the IGRC better. While I am still learning, I have learned much about what has been and what is. This learning has led to some thinking about the future.
Annual Conference 2009 is now over. It is history. But I believe that it will continue to inform our common life and witness for some time to come.
We have some important challenges ahead of us. Those challenges create unprecedented opportunities for us to be the church that God yearns for and that the world needs. I am excited about both the challenges and the opportunities.
Remember we are the people who live out our faith in part by observing “Three Simple Rules.” The first of these rules is “do no harm.” The United Methodist perspective on gambling could not be more relevant to the revenue issues that we are facing here in Illinois.
I was pleased last week that the Illinois General Assembly took up the important business of a capital construction bill that would tend to much needed infrastructure work and provide jobs.
But I was profoundly disappointed that the funding package for the program includes the dangerous expansion of gambling in Illinois. I am persuaded that such an expansion will do great injury and harm.
Remember, we are a people who live out their faith by observing "Three Simple Rules." The first of these rules is "do no harm."
In a world filled with division and strife, where what we are not is the most important label we wear, what gift could the followers of Jesus be to the world by embodying what it means to dwell together in unity? Practicing true community may be the primary way that we can show the world the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
We do not have to ignore the things that distinguish us. But we are called to not allow them to distract us from the task of modeling the power of true oneness and community before the world. Our differences of whatever kind enrich us, they do not diminish us. Our differences can be pathways to conversation and relationship not roadblocks to community. Maya Angelou is a distinguished poet. She happens to be an American but she belongs to the world. She says about our human experience “we are more alike than unalike.”