Embraced by the God of Love, Hope, and Purpose

January 19th, 2012
This article is featured in the Call to Action (Feb/Mar/Apr 2012) issue of Circuit Rider

Every person becomes the image of the God they adore.
—Thomas Merton
, No Man Is An Island

Change is in the air around the world and it leaves us more than a little uneasy. The reality that we are indeed a tightly connected global community has forced us to rethink our political, cultural, and denominational response to the unsettling context in which we find ourselves. To some degree the future has always been and always will be uncertain, but even the casual observer knows this is not an ordinary time.

As we move toward another General Conference, it is not surprising that uncertainty grows within the church about change and the new directions called for by the context in which God has placed us and calls us to faithfulness. Too often in the past when faced by change our uncertainty has been followed with fear and doubt that distract us from the real issues we face and seduce us into talking and acting in ways that, in our better moments, we reject as unworthy of those who follow Jesus Christ.

That is a result we do not want to see and therefore we remind ourselves and each other of the three simple and yet profound rules that are a part of our heritage:

Do no harm.

Do good.

Stay in love with God.

As together we promise to follow this way of living while we prepare for and engage in the ministry of General Conference, our fears begin to diminish and our trust and hope begin to increase. God has called delegates and staff for this important work, and every member around the world is called to prayer on behalf of those who seek to listen carefully and respond faithfully.

These simple rules are not easy but they offer a way for United Methodists to follow the path of faithfulness and fidelity to our past and most of all to Jesus Christ whom we seek to follow.

It is also important that we ponder three questions:

Who is God?

Who am I?

Who are we together?

The Three Simple Questions offer to each of us a way of preparing to walk faithfully the demanding path of the Three Simple Rules. When together we study, reflect, and come to know more deeply the God of love revealed in Jesus Christ, we no longer fear the anger, violence, and hatred that reflect the powers and paths of the world. As we reject the ways of the world and practice the ways of Jesus, miraculous things begin to take place.

Suddenly, the earth-shaking events of our time lose their power to control our thoughts or actions. The fear that paralyzes our compassion and drives us to seek security in all the wrong places melts away in the light, love, and power that are gifts of the Holy Spirit to all who faithfully follow Jesus. The fear that was knocking at the door of our consciousness is replaced with faith and trust in the God of love we see revealed so clearly in Jesus Christ. Instead of anxiety about the future, we find hope, not in ourselves or our systems, but in the God who has made us, leads us, empowers us, and chooses to dwell with us.

When we know this God of love who calls us beloved daughters and sons and chooses to be companion to us in every circumstance of life, we discover that there is no need for anxiety or fear. We also discover there is no place for competitiveness, desire for power, best seats, first place, or for comparisons that ridicule and diminish any of God’s beloved children.

And then it is that we can see clearly, perhaps for the first time, who we are together as God’s human family, each one loved as much as every other one, all embraced and claimed by this God of love who is always beyond us and yet always with us.

Deep in our hearts and minds we know there is a better way than our culture embodies and at times we adopt. However difficult that better way is, we know that there is the promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence to guide, empower, embrace, and sustain as we seek, find, and claim that better way as our own. The remarkable thing is that every moment we choose to live as Jesus lived, we change the world.

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