Center Lines - May 2008

In a recent issue of Christian Century magazine Tom McGrath of Loyola Press offers thoughts on 2 Corinthians 13:11-13. It is a passage in which Paul encourages the Christian community there to "keep the faith" in his absence. He encourages them to keep things together, to live and to work together, to keep peace in their midst. This is not an easy task in the best of circumstances. McGrath believes it was particularly difficult for these early Christians.

His thesis is that when Jesus was in ministry among disciples and followers in this world, he was never "predictable or dull." He worked to radically alter their world view and challenged their understanding of the nature of God and their expectations of how they ought to relate to God. McGrath said, "At each step of the way, the disciples' interaction with Jesus stretched their limits and pushed their boundaries beyond the comfort zone. . . . Jesus introduced the notion that there was more going on within this God than they had previously suspected."

What brought the message home for me was his next paragraph: "We too live in a time of disorientation and disruption. We gather to worship the Lord, but parts of us are plagued with doubts. We are told to ‘Go' and we want to stay. But there is no idyllic place to return to. We can only be right here, right now." I thought about this notion in the context of where we are in our journey as an annual conference.

The 2008 General Conference is behind us. Decisions were made and policies enacted which we do not yet fully know or understand. Our impending annual conference session lies mid-way between that and the coming Jurisdictional Conference in July. Regarding the Jurisdictional Conference, actions are expected there that we variously anticipate, long for, hope for and are anxious about. We know that God is calling us to "Go" (somewhere; the destination is not clear), but we want to stay. If we ever were in an idyllic place, it is gone. We are where we are, and the only direction for us to move is forward in some fashion. Like the early disciples, our limits are pushed and our boundaries are stretched, often beyond our comfort zones.

These thoughts and words could be a cause for lament, a reason for deepened anxieties. They could be reasons for hand-wringing. Or we could, like our Lord, shine the light differently, alter our world view. We could use our circumstance as an opportunity to stretch our limits, to push our boundaries; to understand the nature of God differently and to shift our expectations of how we relate to and experience God.

Of course, the core of what we are to do will not change. It has not changed since the very earliest of the disciples; to share the good news that we have received, to share it in word and service to a hungry and hurting world. To shine the light of holy truth and holy justice. To live in a way that shows Christ makes a difference in our lives.

So as we deal with conferences on multiple levels, as we address bureaucratic issues like boundaries, as we fashion new ways of living and working with new brothers and sisters my hope and prayer is that we will follow the Spirit's leading to live in ways that reflect our Creator's generous forgiveness, promise and love. Then, as Paul so fervently wishes, with us will be the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, and with all anywhere who are in need!


By: Reverend Mark Marino On 5/19/2008