#WJC

On Observing GC2019: Which Scripture?

Today was opening day of General Conference 2019 (#GC2019). Yesterday, at the pre-conference, the room was bathed in prayer, song, worship, and connection. It was a good start to prepare our hearts to be open to hear God’s word.

But today we moved on to the agenda items. Our conference delegates made it known that the priority for this gathering is in this order:
1. Pensions
2. Traditional Plan
3. Disaffiliation
4. Disaffiliation
5. One Church Plan
On the exterior, when you look at this list, you can expect that we are concerned about our retirements, our traditional understanding of theology, our safety if we choose to remove ourselves from the body, and finally, we might look at the plan put forth by A Way Forward (and endorsed by our bishops). Of course, that is IF we have time, and IF we aren’t delayed on the floor by inconsequentials.

As I came back to the hotel room, I wondered about our differing understandings of scripture, and which ones we were choosing to make central to our faith.

Truthfully, the one that I kept seeing is Jesus throwing over tables in anger and saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.” (CEB: Matthew 21:13)

But as I took in that image of Jesus flippin’ tables, I wondered about the thing that divides us: how we read our holy scriptures. For those who say they read the Book literally (as if that is a holier stance), I remind us of these texts:

“You must keep my rules. Do not crossbreed your livestock, do not plant your            field with two kinds of seed, and do not wear clothes made from two kinds of material.” (Lev. 19:19)  Check your outfit. Is it made of mixed fibers? Do you have polyester in your closet? If you wear it, or bought it, you are breaking the literal commands of the Scripture.

OR, “If your eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter into life with one eye then to be cast into a burning hell with two eyes.” (Matthew 18:9) How many of us have really taken this scripture literally? We allow our gaze to fall on things that separate us from God, yet we do not remove our eyeballs as a sign of holiness.

So, how then do we read our Scriptures? Do we pick and choose which ones fit our (Incomplete) understanding of who God is? And if so, what do we do with these scriptures:

“Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt to you.” (Matthew 7:1)

“Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. 1John 4:7-8

My question, as an Observer of General Conference 2019, is: Which Scripture verse will you lay your heart, and our future, upon?

When I went to seminary at Claremont School of Theology, my professor, Dr. James Sanders, taught us that the Word of God (including the word of the scriptures) is active, living and breathing even today. That means our scriptures are not old and dead. Instead, they are alive and God uses them to breathe life into the Church, and into our souls, even today. He learned this when he translated the Psalm Scroll and edited the newly-found Dead Sea Scrolls. While working, he found God meeting him in the words that were so alive they transformed his current life. The Spirit of God continued to work in the words and in the understanding of the world today. In other words, Dr. Sanders taught us: each word is alive and new for a current day.

Dr. Sanders was transformed by translating scripture. And, he cautioned us against reading words without the guide of the Holy Spirit.

So, what will you choose to hear today? Rules about clothing and eye removal? Condemnation? Or, will God’s Spirit whisper a new understanding of what it means to follow the way of Love?

Tomorrow we go back into the convention center at St. Louis to vote on who is acceptable in God’s eyes. Our choice will determine the future of the Church. Will we choose condemnation and exclusion of God’s beloved? Or, will we choose to follow God’s example of loving all? Delegates, be very sure that you are voting in a manner that follows the God who loves and creates us all, even if you don’t understand what God is up to. Delegates, be sure you stand on the side of Love. Because, really, we don’t want to see Jesus flipping tables ever again.

An Observer of the process and events of General Conference 2019.#UMC

She sang to me in Spanish…

13707606_1203614609673259_1642299643884555984_n (1)I just went through an amazing process as an episcopal candidate for the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. As a steady “2nd” in the voting process, I was able to talk to many people…delegates, those who were connected to caucus groups and those who were not, as well as those who were hanging on the sidelines. I heard more than I’ll be able to process in the coming months. For now, I’m soaking in all that I learned, all that was whispered, and all that was said both as pain and hope.
I went knowing that I could trust God’s Spirit to guide me. So I knew exactly the moment when I needed to step out and give my concession to the will of the Body and the move of the Spirit: to elect Bishop Karen Oliveto as our most qualified candidate. I had a moment to share with the greater Church a piece of my heart, and I am forever grateful for that moment. I am sure it was why I was there.
But after that speech, came something so beautiful: the hugs! People lined up to hug and love on and congratulate for a work well done. I’ll never forget those hugs. They felt like a dump-truck of love being poured out on my soul. I teared up for days just remembering…
In the middle of the Line of Hugs was an elder Latina woman who came up to me and began singing in Spanish. She wanted me to sing with her…she demanded it, really. So together we sang: “He decidido sequir a Christo…no vuelvo atras, no vuelvo atras…” (I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back…). It’s a song from my childhood, and we sang two verses…stopping the line to sing lustily, heartily, and with full voice as Wesley has instructed us. Two Latinas singing…a Latina mother figure bringing along another Latina into the moment of deep connection and deep joy for what God was doing in our midst.
She sang to me! She sang with me! We sang in our mother tongue. My soul is so very full. Gracias, Amiga Mia. Dios con nosotros…it is enough. It is vey well with my soul.