Many people have adopted the Emerson quote “Life is a journey, not a destination” as their life mantra. It is something that gives inspiration and hope when things are tough. It can remind one that while things may not turn out as one would hope, just …
There is a level of health that is required to be an athlete at the Olympics. Events are different and each event requires, at times, a different skill set. While weight lifters and swimmers both qualify for the Olympics, you don’t assign the weight li…
As a first-time observer, the Rev. Jason Valendy finds the rushed pace of the 2016 General Conference doesn’t allow the spiritual wisdom to great preaching to sink into the delegates’ actions.
Wes Magruder, UMR
While at General Conference, Re. Mary Spradlin and I were interviewed by the UMReporter. The following story is the results of that interview. Click here to read the full s…
So far there has been excellent preaching at General Conference. I am not saying this as one might say to the preacher as they leave the sanctuary to get to lunch. There really has been great preaching here. Powerful words, images, stories and metaphors. Prophetic calls to actions and even pricking the hearts of the most dug in hearts. Even the great fire of preaching is not taking the chill off the cold spirit of compassion at GC.
Then I was reminded of this infamous study made popular by Malcolm Gladwell:
A study at Princeton Theological Seminary asked seminarians to prepare a short, extemporaneous talk on a given biblical theme, and then walk over to a nearby building to present it.
Along the way to the presentation, each student ran into a man slumped in an alley, head down, eyes closed, coughing and groaning. The question was, “who would stop and help?”
The researchers included three variables: (1) the background of the subject – whether they had entered seminary as a way of helping people or not, (2) which parable they were to prepare – several were given the Good Samaritan parable as their subject, and (3) a time context, saying either that they were running several minutes late and should hurry up, or that they were early and had some time to spare. The results were interesting.
The first two variables had no effect. Whether somebody had devoted their life in service to their fellow man, or even whether they had just been reminded of the value of altruism by preparing a speech on the Good Samaritan, had no effect on whether they stopped and helped. “The only thing that really mattered was whether the student was in a rush. Of the group that was rushed, 10% stopped to help. Of the group who knew they had a few minutes to spare, 63% stopped.” In other words, all of one’s attitudes and feelings are over-ridden by subtle clues in the environment, they were rushed and in a hurry.
With all the talk about the merits of the rules, we have less time. We are rushed. And we know what happens to our ability to show compassion to others when we are rushed.
Great preaching does not impact the work of GC because we rush ourselves. Or in the words of Shigera Miyamoto, “A delayed games is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”
Here is what it is like to be at the General Conference 2016 so far. Imagine you are going to a family reunion. You pack your bags and include a fun game of badminton in your luggage. You did not know the rules of badminton but you spent some time…
The Good, Fast, Cheap triangle looks like this:
You can only pick 2
Everyone at the General Conference (GC) desires it to be good, fast and cheap. The fact of the matte…
I am convinced that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life as John 14 says. My more progressive friends hesitate around this scripture while my more conservative friends embrace this scripture. The interesting thing is that both sides hesitate/embrace for the same reason – the exclusive claims that are attached to it. Progressives are not sure if Jesus is the only way, while conservatives are convinced he is. One side is apprehensive to exclusivity while the other side has it as an article of faith.
I would like to submit that the question needs to be not if Jesus is the way, but what exactly is the way of Jesus?
In his book, A New Christianity, Brian McLaren addresses this question:
“If you want to know what God is like,” Jesus says, “look at me, my life, my way, my deeds, my character.” And what has that character been? One of exclusion, rejection, constriction, elitism, favoritism, and condemnation? Of course not! Jesus’ way has been compassion, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion, and love from beginning to end— whether with a visiting-by-night Pharisee, a Samaritan woman, a paralyzed man, a woman caught in adultery, or a man born blind.
It seems to me the Way of Jesus is the way of radical compassion and inclusion. And this radical inclusion leads us to Christ which in turn leads us to God. It is a cycle. Here is what I mean:
But here is the paradox that is often overlooked: the way of radical inclusion is the way of exclusion. The way of radical inclusion means that we exclude from our lives our own prejudices, judgments, condemnations, egos and self righteousness.
So my friends if we think that Christianity is exclusive, you may be correct. However, it is never exclusive of others. Christianity is the way of life that works to include others in a way that requires us to exclude our egos. This in part is what is meant by the need to die to ourselves so that Christ can live in us. When we exclude our own pride and ego and allow Christ to live in us, we find that way of Christ to be the way of radical and sometimes uncomfortable inclusion of the other.
Christ died for the world. Not for some select few or for the chosen ones. Christ died for the entire world. You cannot get more radically inclusive than that.
And yet in order to die for the sake of the whole world, Jesus had to exclude from his own ministry fear, hate, judgement and pride. He says in the garden prior to his arrest, “not my will but thine.”
Jesus is the way the truth and the life. The call for us today is are we willing to embrace the way of Jesus so that we may see the truth of his life?
Recently I heard a devotional given by Rev. Dr. Tim Bruster (who is up for election for Judicial Council of the UMC). Rev. Bruster shared the story from 2 Kings 20:1-21 and how it relates to the UMC. For those of us who have not memorized the story, here is the key part Dr. Bruster shared:
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’
Dr. Bruster pointed out that Hezekiah was a king who was told that his actions and the way he was leading was going to result in some very bad news for his sons. However, this news did not provoke Hezekiah to repent and change his ways. His response to hearing this word was, “this is a good word that you have spoken.” It is good that those closest to him will experience shame and punishment? Why?
Hezekiah may have thought this was good news because this news was about his sons and not about himself. Perhaps we could read his response, “Oh that sounds bad…. Wait did you say this was going to happen to me? Oh, no? My sons? Whew! That was close. I thought you were going condemn my actions, but you only are saying my boys will be affected. That was close, I really dodged a bullet there.”
It might have been good news for Hezekiah, but his son’s may have a different opinion…
Of all the voting delegates of General Conference of the UMC, only 7% of them are “young people.” The gifted and talented Abigail Parker Herrera wrote: “Only 7% of the 864 seated delegates will be young people. Less than 30 people under the age of 35 from the Central Conferences and only 33 people under 30 from the United States will be on the floor making decisions. Almost half of these young people are women. A mere 6 of them are clergy.”
With these sorts of numbers I wonder if the other 93% of delegates may fall victim to the universal sin of shortsightedness? May it remind us all that our perspective is influenced depending on if we have to live with for 10 or 50 years.
With only a few young people among the 2016 General Conference delegates, the Rev. Jason Valendy prays that the remaining 93 percent of delegates avoid King Hezekiah’s mistake of short-sightedness in their decisions.