From the Well - 8/17/2017

Romans 11:1-2, 29-32 (NRSV)
1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

There once was a rice farmer who saved an entire village from destruction. From his hilltop farm he felt the quake and saw the distant ocean swiftly withdraw from the old shoreline, like some prodigious animal crouching back for a leap. He knew that the leap would be a tidal wave.

In the valley below, he saw his neighbors working low fields that would soon be flooded. "They must run quickly to his hilltop or they will all die," he said to himself. His rice barns were dry as tender. So with a torch he set fire to this barns and soon the fired gong started ringing. His neighbors saw the smoke and rushed to help. Then from their safe perch they saw the tidal wave wash over the fields they had just left. In a flash they knew not only who had saved them but what their salvation had cost their benefactor. They later erected a monument to his memory bearing the motto, "He gave us all he had, and gave gladly." God's mercy is like that of the rice farmer.

Our God is a giving and merciful God. Paul says that "God's gifts are irrevocable." God is mercy and that never changes. Knowing your need for mercy opens you up to receive mercy. Knowing your need opens you up to the love of God because God is mercy and must be experienced as such. If your goal in life is to take care of everything yourself, to be independent and self-reliant then you will never know God. Remember that mercy is not so much something God has as it is something that God is.[1] Think about it.

Matthew

[1]Thanks to Richard Rohr in Richard Rohr's Daily Devotions, Friday, July 22, 2016 & Wednesday, April 19, 2017.


FROM THE BISHOP

OF THE WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA CONFERENCE

OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

August 14, 2017

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, Heather Heyer was killed by James Fields after he drove a car into a crowd of people protesting a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Our national leaders and church leaders quickly denounced the intent of a rally which undermined our community health, increased fear, and sought to divide us on racial issues.  Virginia State Troopers, Berkeley Bates and Jay Cullen, who had committed their lives to protect and serve, also died in a helicopter crash at the event.  As a result, the Virginia State Governor declared a state of emergency.

As clergy and lay leaders of our United Methodist Church we are preparing to meet with our congregations this coming Sunday in the urgency of the moment.  Yes, we will worship, grieve, and pray for God's Presence at this moment.  As moral leaders we are placed once more in a position where we must denounce the spirit of hostility and violence that is expressed too commonly as a response to our differences and fears.  We must make clear how important it is to dismantle racism.  Hopefully, this will be a time where our congregations begin to reflect on the importance of having people of faith acknowledge the place where the church intersects with the critical needs of our communities.  What is our moral grounding?  When does the church speak to the issues of our time?  Where does our Christian voice intersect with community?  We cannot allow silence and the lost opportunity to speak at this critical time to be interpreted as indifference on our part. 

Our first response is to pray, and prayer for God's divine presence is essential.  We must also act!  We are driven not only by the urgency of the moment, but also as people who see the importance of the sacrament of the moment.  As church leaders we can gather people together and begin to teach tolerance.  We can speak up within our churches and communities to denounce hatred.  We must work for a truly integrated society.  We can offer healthy choices to replace the gatherings and rallies of hatred by offering alternative places of meeting to celebrate our uniqueness, diversity, and acceptance of others.  In addition, like Jesus speaking to the Woman at the well or the Roman ruler, we form relationships of hope with people who come from different backgrounds and cultures.  This is our true heritage.  This is our true nature, saved from sin and transformed into the image of Christ.  "For Christ is our peace...and has broken the dividing wall of hostility" Ephesians 2:14. 

Paul L. Leeland