A Meditation for 18 September 2016, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C). The meditation is based on Jeremiah 8: 18 – 9: 1; 1 Timothy 2: 1 – 7; and Luke 16: 1 – 13.
The prophet Jeremiah cries out that it seems as if God is not to be found anywhere in Zion. But, by the same token, it would appear that it is the people who are to be blamed for the disappearance of God. And in that alternative Old Testament reading for this Sunday (Amos 8: 4 – 8), the prophet Amos puts the blame on those who ignore the lesser of society in favor of their own goals.
And then there is Paul telling Timothy that God wants everyone saved, not just a select few but everyone. And Paul points out that there is only God. Now, it would be nice if Paul had left the option open on how this was to be done but, in his view, the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. And I realize that I am in the minority on this point but that in accepting Christ as my Savior I understand what Paul is writing. But that doesn’t mean that I can make everyone accept that viewpoint and I happen to think that Paul understood that as well. That’s why he told Timothy that you had to get the word out and explain how it works. And “explain” is the operative word; not everyone is going to accept the idea and we have to accept that.
Maybe I am wrong but I see something ironic in those words being the first lessons for this week. Because there are those who would say that their goals and their agendas are the primary goals and agendas of the church and that if you don’t accept what they say as the absolute and positive truth, then you are out.
But these people have made deals much like that of the dishonest manager in the Gospel lesson for this Sunday. They have made deals that allow them to keep their power and their position, even it goes against what God intended.
The title of this post is blatantly taking from Reverend Jeremy Smith’s recent post, “10 Minutes after Progressives are Exiled from the #UMC”. Reverend Jeremy outlines some of the things that may occur if conservatives in the Methodist Church are able to accomplish their goals of creating a new orthodox, Wesleyan denomination and a network of churches committed to changing the word through proclamation and ministry.
Now, Reverend Smith points out that 10 minutes after this is accomplished and progressives are forced from the United Methodist Church, the world as they know will come to an end (and that is my interpretation) for many people who have suffered and endured in the limiting environment of their own present denomination will find the voice to break free.
The goals of these conservatives is to maintain the legalistic and perhaps, in their own mind, theological correct order of life. And their view of the world is a very fixed and complete world.
But I live in a world that seems to be changing and what seemed to have been true years ago is no longer true. If you are a chemist and you know your chemical history, then you are perhaps vaguely familiar with the phlogiston theory.
This was the first attempt to explain the process of combustion and stated that there was a substance known as phlogiston that was released during the process of combustion. The discovery of oxygen and the fact that materials gained mass during combustion lead to the demise of this theory.
Now it should be pointed out that even after this theory was discredited, there were some who struggled to make it work.
There are times when I see what happens in the church today in that way. There are some basic underlying principles that have remained true from the very day that we became conscious and sentient beings but have become clearer each day because we know about what is transpiring around us. As the philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus, noted, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.” He also stated one “can never step in the same river twice.”
I have spoken and written about how I see the future of the United Methodist Church and I know this:
I cannot leave the United Methodist Church when it was the place where I found a safe and loving environment at times of personal and professional crisis. I cannot leave the United Methodist Church where there were pastors who saw something in me that I didn’t see and pushed and prodded be to continue on my own journal of faith. I cannot leave the United Methodist Church when there are those who today to find that environment that love, that safety, that opportunity. I cannot leave the United Methodist Church but I fear that the United Methodist Church will leave.
Sadly, those who hold on to this static view of life will find themselves left behind. But those who they would willing exclude will find a new, open and welcoming church.
10 minutes from the now, the world will have changed and there is no one thing you can do to keep that from happening. The prophets knew this; Paul always encouraged Timothy to keep moving forward. And the words that Jesus spoke some two thousand years ago pointed out the what we have today are the moments that stimulate creative and allow us to move forward.
The world 10 minutes from now can be a better world if you are willing to make it so.