The Church Is People
Sometimes, a person can get so caught up in controversy that it’s easy to forget that most folks avoid it like the plague, far preferring to stay focused on their own lives, their own plans, their own concerns. I think I am not immune to this, thus my recent silence. To be honest, I certainly receive praise and hits for writing about controversial matters. Which creates a trap, doesn’t it? Writing about mundane, workaday things doesn’t attract attention. Being a voice in a controversy, however, certainly does.
Yet, as the words to the “Vigilate” say: “I say to you: Watch”. This is, or should be, what all of us are doing. The words to Byrd’s motet come from parable of Jesus, as well as some sayings, in which he advises his disciples always to be ready, to wait and watch, to keep their lamps ready, because the time of accounting may be 5 minutes away, or five thousand years, but always always always be ready. Watch. Being distracted by controversy, even an important one like justice within the denomination as well as in our words and pastoral deeds to the world, is not watching.
Yet, should one be interested, the United Methodist Church is busy. From the spreading Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, to the ongoing troubles between Russia and Ukraine; from continuing to push for justice, including repentance, in our relations to the Native peoples of this continent to helping out those lost in American detention camps because our national discussion on immigration is a joke; the United Methodist Church is there, living the Gospel, making disciples, working for peace and justice and life. You can read about all these stories of the United Methodist Church being church by clicking the link above. We continue our work in the world, for the world, out of a faith that believes God loves this creation; that’s God’s intention is the salvation and healing and transformation of all creation; that we are the vital link, the Body of Christ alive to and in the world for the sake of the glory of God. It is the people in the pews who volunteer their time and effort, who give generously to support these and so many other ministries here and around the world. It is the quilters of Christ UMC in Rockford, IL who present their creations to be blessed to God’s service. It is the thousands of people, young and old, working at pantries and soup kitchens and food banks to help keep the hungry fed, to let those our society calls “moochers” that they are people, beloved and of infinite worth. It is the folks who visit the elderly in the nursing homes, reminding them they are still alive. It is our United Methodist schools and hospitals and youth programs, reaching all sorts of populations in need of the simple Word that they are loved, they are not forgotten, they are a part of God’s plan for a transformed world.
In all the noise and bluster coming from so many, including me, it is far too easy to forget the mundane work of loving the world, of making disciples for its transformation, continues, and will continue. Because, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted almost a century ago, the Church is people living in loving community through the grace of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not structures or laws. At the end of the day, if we do not and cannot affirm this fundamental truth of faith, that is the day the United Methodist Church ceases to be the church. Thankfully, that day has not yet arrived and so we go about our affairs, the noise of controversy just a distant, dim hum of noise in the midst of praise.