Yesterday I tried to gather thoughts for sharing, but I just could not find a thread to bring them together. Today, this day especially, a thread begins weaving thoughts together.
As an American, one cannot escape the memories of 9/11. But there are other days that are cemented in my memory that have bound us together: JFK’s assassination, the OKC bombing, the Challenger tragedy, not to mention the natural disasters such as the hurricanes, earthquakes and forest fires that keep us spellbound to the news.
Throughout all these historical events, I am constantly reminded about how key a faith system is to the way in which we manage these experiences.
The denomination is irrelevant. The common element is—GOD.
I recognize that many of our younger generations—note the plural—struggle to understand the ‘need’ for a faith system, but I also know that there is an underlying curiosity about why faith is so important to their parents and grandparents.
On Saturday, the Missouri Methodists held a kick-off event for the three priorities the conference has established for the current year:
- Pathway out of poverty: to deepen & grow partnerships between schools & churches
- Creating new places for new people: introducing church (faith) to one person not involved in any church for at least one year
- Missional leaders: to identify & mentor new leaders in the church
Today’s churches are facing the global community that continues to be rocked by disasters whether at the hand of humans or at the mercy of nature. The challenges each person faces has the potential to destroy one’s security, one’s family, one’s confidence to wake up each morning and start fresh to live a new day.
During the kick off event, the question Roger Ross presented sums up the concern the long-established churches must consider: Why on earth do we start new churches when so many existing ones are struggling?
The United Methodist Church is recording losses in membership, but I propose those losses signify a shift in the demographics more than anything. The denomination has not adapted well to the cultural changes that began in the 1960s when Vietnam was the primary news story shortly after JFK was assassinated.
Ross went on to explain why the conference has decided to emphasize the need to reach out to new people in new places:
“. . . Over the last 10 years, the Missouri Conference has started 40 new churches—30 of them are still reaching people today. We’ve found that new people, younger people and more diverse people show up in disproportionately higher numbers in these new churches than our existing ones. . . . “
Today, as we remember the horrific events of 9/11, I cannot ignore the enormous effect that faith has had on the generations that lived through that attack. Look at all those who raced into the horror to do all they could for all they could reach in any manner that they could—with no regard for their personal safety.
These people were images of God incarnate. They were moved into action by training, yes. By a sense of purpose, yes. By an unseen force those in the faith community know as the Holy Spirit, yes.
I suggest that every single person has the foundation of faith within his/her psyche. I suggest that God is within each individual, waiting, struggling, and anticipating to be acknowledged
God’s church is not a denomination, but all denominations. Any church who identifies its purpose and works together to become the arms and legs of God in any way that it can, will shine the metaphorical light to those still searching to know God personally.
For Missouri Methodists or any denomination to succeed in making disciples of Christ (remember Jesus’ greatest commandment), the purpose must be defined, and the current disciples must reach out to others to develop relationships with others.
The methods to reach out to others should not matter. Whether meeting at a local restaurant or coffee house or gathering in a cathedral, establishing relationships with one another is the key to others learning about how God operates within their lives.
I have walked through the tragedies of life, but I have my faith. I know that I can manage anything as long as God is my partner in this life. I know that doing all that I can for others—whether in a classroom, within my family, or as I walk in and out of stores. God is my operating system.
This does not mean I am perfect. I am human. But as long as I keep my eye on God and follow the teachings of Jesus, I should be alert to the power of the Holy Spirit within me equipping me to manage in this life.
With my faith system in place, I see glory in the sun’s morning rays shining in my eyes. I hear the hymns sung by the birds and even the evening insects. I feel the warmth of the sun, the hug of a friend or family member, or even the warmth of a sweater wrapped around me. I taste the sweetness of honey created by the bees or the strength of the beef and pork raised by the farmers. I smell the perfume of the sweet autumn clematis or the spring’s lilacs, the freshly mown grass of summer and even the snow’s freshness as it blankets the grey world.
I love God.
I love life that God created and gifted to us.
I love others, too, and want to love them as I want to be loved.
I pray that as we continue to face the evils of this world, that The Church continues to transform into the body of Christ whether it finds a home inside a church or whether it moves into action along the sides of people in need anywhere within our global community.
We certainly do not understand everything
within this enormous world you created.
We certainly struggle to understand the disasters
that challenge us at any time in our lives.
Open our minds so that we may hear, see, taste,
smell and touch all that you have created.
Open our hearts so that we may share in the joys
of our lives and the pain, too, so we move
to love one another in all the ways we can.
Open our doors not only of our churches but
of our homes and businesses so others
may come to know your love above all else.
Thank you for all that you have given to us.
Thank you for continuing to love us when we err.
Thank you for the promise of eternal life
because you stepped on this earth with us,
taught us how to love one another,
and then died so might live eternally.
In your name,
In the name of your son Jesus Christ.
And in the name of the Holy Spirit,