I have a great hope for the United Methodist Church which, I am told, is an odd sentiment to have at this moment. As this General Conference came to a somewhat tentative conclusion, I found myself in a unique position. I am on the eve of my ordination as a full elder in the denomination after 18 years of lay ministry and 12 years in the ordination process.
Many of my older colleagues in ministry look on me with pity seeing a tumultuous season ahead for our church, but I have been surprised by my sense of hope as I look forward into the several decades ahead of me. It has taken a while to understand, but over the past several days I have begun to figure it out.
My hope for the future of the UMC comes, in part, because I believe in the Holy Spirit. The real one. The one I find in the Bible not the magic show version peddled on television. The Holy Spirit I find in the Scripture is focused on transformation. The Spirit takes grief and transforms it to comfort. It takes war and transforms it into peace. It makes the seemingly impossible possible.
But what I love most about the Holy Spirit is that it is personal. For any who surrender to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, they find their hearts and lives made new. I believe this because I have seen it with my own eyes in my own life and the lives of countless others.
This morning I walked into my 2-year-old daughter’s room to find her in pieces on the floor screaming (again). Neither of us could locate the precise cause of her crisis (you rarely can with a hysterical 2-year old). Knowing I could not fix it I did the only thing I knew, I asked if I could hold her.
She screamed “NO” while reaching out for me with pleading arms. So, I gathered up the pieces of my daughter and held her together while she healed from whatever was causing her so much pain.
She couldn’t do it herself. She needed someone to hold her together which brings me, of course, to catholicism. (That’s catholicism with a little “c” not a big one.) Its the word that describes the church Jesus created: one body in one ministry to one the world.
There’s power in that word. That word describes the opposite of the brokenness that prevails throughout our hurting world. That word is the hope of unity that connects every Christian who has ever lived to every other Christian through the body and blood of Jesus.
That word describes what happens in the second chapter of Acts when the Holy Spirit takes 12 men and unites them into a supernatural whole that is empowered to proclaim the hope of the Gospel to the entire world. It is more than the tongues of fire over their heads, it is the Gospel being spoken in the myriad native languages of everyone listening. It is supernatural unity flowing forth in the mission of God.
That is why I have such great hope for the UMC. I have hope that voices of all shapes and sizes and colors and ages would join together in this commission.
I have hope that even as entrenched voices scream no, they would reach their arms out to the Holy Spirit who longs to hold them together.
I have hope that God will not remove God’s hand of blessing but will empower a new catholicism within the UMC: one that flows into the mission of God in the world.
I have hope that a new great awakening will happen as the people called Methodist show a broken world the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to bring unity out of brokenness.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.