Today has been a day of beautiful clarities. I’ve written in my last couple of posts (over a year ago at this point…whoops) about the special session of the General Conference that is coming at the end of February. I won’t rehash all of that here, because you likely know everything that is coming before the General Conference as we determine how best to be in ministry with the LGBTQ community. If you don’t, take a look at my linked post above. Also, my colleague Chris Ritter has likely written more about this than anyone else, pop on over and check out his page. If you’re a member of my local church, remember that I’m hosting a chat about all of this on February 10.
So rehashing all the General Conference chatter aside, I admit that I’ve been worrying quite a bit about what will happen next month. No matter which plan is passed (if anything at all) there will be large ripples throughout the entire United Methodist Church. Sure, I have my own preference as to what should happen (though that preference doesn’t count at all since I am not one of the delegates to the General Conference), but my heart hurts to think of any fallout.
I’ve made no effort to hide my love for the United Methodist Church. I’ve had church members tell me with a grin on their face, “Pastor, you’ve never seen a cross without a flame on it.” They’re not wrong. The UMC is the only church family I’ve ever known, I’ve been going to annual conference since I was 14 and I’m a total Methonerd. I worry that the Church I love is about to be ripped apart at the seams.
I have friends and colleagues who view human sexuality very differently than I do, but that does not change the love that I have for them. The idea that we may find ourselves in different denominations is a thought that I struggle with.
I worry about our church’s continued witness to the world. I believe that the world needs the Church, and I’m likely biased, but I think the UMC has something important to speak to that need.
Then there are the practical worries like, “If the United Methodist Church splits, where would I go? I don’t have the skills to do anything else.” Or “What about my pension?”
I’m embarrassed to admit how much I’ve been worrying about all these scenarios and more.
Then the clarities started to come.
I was wrapping up a vision sermon series this morning and preached from John 2, the miracle of water to wine. My title was “The Best is Yet to Come.” Here’s the basic idea: the miracle of water to wine points us to the reality that with Jesus, the best is always yet to come. Whether that be tomorrow or eternity, the best is yet to come. Jesus can and will turn any situation around if we 1) Invite him to be involved, 2) Do what he says and 3) Have Faith that He’ll see it through. Check out the story on John 2, and you’ll catch my flow. In the middle of the sermon I said something that caught me off guard:
“The best days for this Church are not behind us, and we’ve got some really good days back there that we shouldn’t forget and we should continue to celebrate…but with Jesus there is always more. More love, more power, more joy…the best is yet to come.”
I hadn’t written this exactly the way it came out, but I meant it. I serve an incredible local church with a proud history. I believe we are in for a breakout year in the midst of a turnaround. Attendance is up, we’re seeing new people every Sunday and it seems that weekly I’m having conversations with people about what it means to follow Jesus. Things are going great, but the best is yet to come!
As I sat in my office between services, gathering my thoughts, I felt the Spirit ask me “what if the best days are yet to come, not just for your local church, but for The Church?” I thought, “Ok, file that away for later.”
After worship, I attended a district event in Washington. Bishop Beard was teaching on prayer. In between his sessions, the Heritage Ensemble Choir performed. They ended their time by asking us to stand and sing together “We Shall Overcome”. As we sang, I was overcome with emotion. I thought of the deep history of the song and again heard the Spirit speaking to me “this is still true today, even for the Church.”
We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome someday! Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday!
We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are not afraid today! Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome someday!
“Okay, Lord, you have my attention.”
Our District Superintendent went to reintroduce the Bishop and said, “I know this man, and I know that the best is yet to come.” I chuckled. A couple of church members sitting next to me chuckled, too. That was our refrain all morning.
Then the Bishop said it, “I truly believe that the best days for the Methodist Church are not in the rearview mirror, they’re ahead of us.” So close to what I had uttered this morning.
I thought about all of this the entire ride home and I’ve come to a new clarity. I choose not to be worried about what will happen at General Conference. I will not be afraid. I choose to believe that the best is yet to come for the people called Methodist.
I’m taking my own advice from my sermon. I’m inviting Jesus to move at the General Conference, I want the Holy Spirit to fall so powerfully that they don’t know which way is up. And I have faith that Jesus loves the Church enough, that He’ll see us through.
I don’t know what everything will look like when the dust settles, but I do know that on February 27, Jesus Christ will still be Lord. On February 27, He will still be building his Church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.
I don’t know what it will look like, but I believe the best is yet to come for us. It may be rebirth out of failure. It may be pockets of new life in the midst of an expiring institution, but I know that with Jesus it’s going to be good….he saves the best for last, and it’s not over yet…not by a long shot. The best is yet to come.