Morning Manna focuses on Word, Sign and Deed
Bishop Gregory Palmer used the morning devotional times to examine the Conference theme of Intentional Faith Development from three perspectives: from Word, a focus on Scripture; Sign, a focus on the Sacraments; and Deed, a focus on works.
“If we are to grow in Christ, we must have a life-long love affair with the Scriptures,” Palmer said, drawing upon Psalm 119: 103, 105.
Utilizing data from the Barna Research Group, Palmer noted the need for being better students of the Bible:
- People are more likely to know the names of the Brady Bunch than they are the 10 Commandments or the names of the Apostles.
- More know the contents of a Big Mac sandwich than the contents of the Bible
- A significant number of people believe Joan of Arc to be Noah’s wife
Bishop Palmer recounted an incident in which he was the guest speaker at Germany’s Annual Conference and during a meal together with Bishop Walter Klaiber, Klaiber told Palmer he was going to be teaching at one of the American seminaries. Knowing that Klaiber was a great Biblical scholar, Palmer asked him what he was going to be teaching or what would be his area of focus. To which Bishop Klaiber replied, “Zee Bible!”
Palmer suggested that one of the greatest impediments has been the Interpreter’s Bible and other commentaries.
“Have you read the text, lived with the text, walked around the text?” Palmer asked. Quoting Roland Murphy, “Protestant preaching in the 20th Century has been ruined by the Interpreter’s Bible and other commentaries because preachers are running to the commentaries before going to the Bible.” To which Palmer added: “They (the commentaries) should never be a diversion or a crutch to going to the Word.”
Palmer noted that engaging the Word does four important things:
- Tells us the nature of God
- Informs us about the nature of who we are and who are created to be
- Shapes us in calling and vocation.
- Tells us of God’s intention and action to save the world
“We have the scroll, but it won’t do any good if we don’t unroll it,” Palmer said.
On Friday, Bishop Palmer examined the role of sacrament in the process of faith development. Drawing upon the text of Romans 6, Palmer reminded those gathered that sacrament is part of our United Methodist heritage.
“We cannot be in a holy relationship with God without the sacraments,” Palmer said. “At this water (baptismal font) and at this table (the Communion table), I am reminded who I am. It begins in these waters and is rehearsed over and over again.”
Palmer noted some churches have a tendency to move the font and Lord’s Table like furniture, getting it front and center only when it will be used on a given Sunday.
“The font and the cross both should both be visible,” Palmer said. “By their very presence, they become a teaching tool rather than writing your name in the dust of those that haven’t been used in a while.”
Bishop Palmer noted that the sacramental life brings about two fruit: confession and community.
“Confession is necessary before coming to the Table,” Palmer said. He noted that the Prayer of Humble Access from the traditional text from the rituals of the former Methodist and former Evangelical United Brethren churches (found in Table Setting IV, UM Hymnal, p. 30) underscores the need.
“And second, each of the signs reminds us we are in community,” Palmer said. “Let me know how that Jesus and Me is working out for you outside of community. We need a community to fully understand. And my life has been stretched to a God Place because I have been in community with others. These waters will make you clean and shape your life in ways you can’t imagine.”
Using the story of the Good Samaritan, from Luke 10, Palmer pointed out that the gospel writer was focusing on action and deeds not on whether the individuals in the story’s doctrine was “in apple pie order.”
“When I was a young preacher, I followed the path of others in making great sport for those who passed by the man,” Palmer admitted. “However, since that time, I have become more sympathetic and understand there were reasons that were absolutely rational for passing the man by. But the consequence was the man was left for dead.”
Luke’s message of inclusion underscores that actions and deeds will be the basis and Palmer added, “some of those you think aren’t going to make it are already there by decree because they have deed their way, they have served their way, they have lived their way, they have embodied their way, and have incarnated their faith in such ways that God is glorified and broken humanity is healed.”
The Samaritan did three things:
- He stopped
- He stooped
- He served
“Because the Samaritan saw, he stopped and paid attention and his heart is drawn into compassion,” Palmer said. “The lenses we put on determines what we see and how we respond. Once we see it, it liberates us to serve or to walk by.”
Palmer also said when we serve, we trust God. “When you spend yourself for humanity, you will never to be in short supply,” he said. “It allows us to give ourselves away in ministry. If you will spend next year, giving yourself, your church and the Gospel away, you will have a new church, a new speech and new praise.”