A couple of nights ago my wife was mending a sweatshirt. It belonged to a fifth grader and he wanted it for a school field trip the next day. He is from a family where the basics do not always get done.
Haircuts come a little late.
Peace and quiet can be hard to come by.
Sweatshirts don’t always get mended.
So Deborah, a teacher, cut a deal with the kid and said, “Let me take your sweatshirt home, and I will bring it back tomorrow.” Sometimes, the smile from a little kid is a smile from God.
While Deborah brought in the Kingdom, I was watching General Conference, the once every four year meeting of the United Methodist Church, online. Our church needs mending, too. And while there were great moments – the global diversity of our church, spectacular music from places near and far, and diseases like malaria being beaten back by our church work – there were also holes torn in our connectional fabric. At times it was as if we, in Jesus’ name, put our Bibles down and forgot how to talk to those with whom we disagree.
Words ravel and unravel, they tear and weave.
Like our nation, I wonder if we have forgotten how to have a conversation? Personally, I value having a church that debates. The social issues our church faces are enormous and the challenge of being a witness and mission to the world we find ourselves in is even more gargantuan. I need Jesus and others to figure this out. When I said yes to Jesus I was asked only to follow. There was no doctrinal test or political survey that accompanied His invitation. As I look back, it is a little scary how little Jesus asked me to know. As I remember that moment, however, he did ask some things. He asked me to trust and love and along the way we would work the rest out. And we have.
Over the years, most of my ministry has been about inviting the frayed outside the usual United Methodist fold, in. I have had more cups of coffee with lost, found, rich, poor, addicted, adulterer, gay, straight, strippers, conservatives, liberals, abused, broken, you-put-the-adjective-and-it fits people than I can count. And I have told them that Jesus loves them wildly, and that in the United Methodist Church – while it is far from perfect – there is a place to call home. Say yes to Jesus, we will work the rest out.
I like to think that is still true.
A few weeks from now I will begin a new role for our church as Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church, Houston – one of the most historic, leading congregations in our denomination in the middle of America’s most diverse city. While I do not know our future, I do believe the Lord has shown me in Houston we can help find the way. In the city with people from every nation under heaven, there can be Pentecost again.
So as General Conference ends, I am committed to finding threads. Some will need mending, some will be new, but I want to help and over these next years and see what we, in Jesus’ name, can weave.
(thanks for reading, as always if you found Jesus in this please comment and share)