It is an ongoing saga that if past events hold true it will have no end. I am referring to the same-sex debates that have and are raging in the Methodist Church this very day and decades past. In conferences, annual and general, districts, small groups and regional, the number of meetings, resources and time devoted to this issue is staggering. The damage done and still being inflicted on the Church is taking a toll in our ability to “answer the call”. The saddest result of this ongoing train wreck is the amount of time and resources that could be better used sharing the word of God with all people, every where, every day. As I write this today I do so from a laymen’s view from the pew. I say to you up front that there is a certain amount of personal opinion in this weeks blog and like most opinion not to be taken as fact; opinion is not fact. I am using for reference material a two letters written in 1859 and 1860 by James Smith and also referencing The New Interpreter’s Bible. Let’s start with the NIB. Last week I shared with you some facts about Psalm 119. One of the interesting comments at the end of the Reflections section has remained with me all week. Psalm 119 does not encourage us to retreat to a narrow view of Scripture, such an action would make the Bible an idol. The writer of 119 recognized written forms as one source of God’s word but does not encourage us to limit our relationship with Him to just written sources. Being open to God’s word in other sources leads us to a greater understanding of the Scripture as the word of God. What follows that statement is what got my attention. While Scripture should be honored as a source of God’s revelation to us, pay close attention here, “it is always to be heard… in conversation with the theological tradition of the church and within the context of the contemporary place and time. Without such action God’s ability to speak to His people is anchored entirely in the past and there is no possibility of God’s continuing to reveal God’s self.” Many times the Bible is referred to as The Living Word, that which inspires, teaches and is the foundation of our faith. It is to be read, heard, and proclaimed with an openness to the direction of the Holy Spirit. It is at this point we encounter unmediated divine teaching. That leads us to the question of who leads this Methodist Church to discern the word of God for our time and place?
Let’s start with the word unmediated, the simple meaning of which is, without anyone or anything intervening or acting as an intermediate. Next let’s look at the word divine. Simple definition would be, like God or of God. We could say that life’s distractions can keep us from discerning God’s divine will in our lives and the life of the church. The distractions and pressures from within and without the church concerning this issue are numerous and at times confusing. Now here is some of that opinion I wrote of earlier. One fact is that influence and time do change people over time and time is one of the most valuable assets of those who favor the changes to the Book of Discipline and the more progressive wing of the church. The pressure from outside groups has been unrelenting. Social justice warriors and the cultural changes that naturally occur overtime have increased the attention to the issue and if that is not enough, it seems the people in the pews lost their voices somewhere along the way some time ago. One other disturbing point has been the lack of leadership in regard to enforcing the laws of the church and speaking to the doctrine and church law as expressed in the Book of Discipline. One of the bigger things of this debate to emerge is the concern in regard to monies and properties. It’s kinda like a who gets what if we divorce thing. Like many of the others in the pew I just want to worship, praise and serve my God and my Church. That brings me back to the question of who leads this Methodist Church to discern the word of God for our time and place? One thing is for certain, if God is not in it then it will fail and that brings me to the only solution I believe will serve God and the Methodist Church. We are in dire need of Divine Teaching.
The Holy Spirit is the great teacher of the church and no one can teach like him. Our subject should be Christ, and to know Christ is life everlasting. What we have now matters, but then the little we do know will not meet our needs unless we know Christ. No one can learn to know Christ by himself — a teacher is necessary. It is our hearts, not our heads which need to be taught, and no man can get at the heart — thus a Divine teacher is necessary. That teacher, the Spirit is provided as promised by Jesus. “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.” John 14:26. The Apostle John, speaking of the Holy Spirit, as the anointing, says, “The same anointing teaches you.”
“As a teacher, the Holy Spirit . . . enlightens the darkened mind, shines on the truth to be taught, and so informs and corrects the judgment. The Holy Spirit, leads us directly to Christ; and the more we experience of his teaching, the more precious Christ becomes, and the more simple and entire is our dependence upon him.” (James Smith)
It does matter how we as the people in the pews, the leadership both organizational and in the Pulpit arrive at our decision. A Spirit anointed people have no need of painted signs, disrupting meetings, creating disturbances to hinder open discussions or any of the numerous distractions designed to confuse. Through the Spirit we will get to know ourselves by knowing the Savior better. We will be rewarded with practical results because the Spirit leads us to Christ. In the Spirit we will find great wisdom and we will be humbled by His grace as He teaches and informs us. We must assume an attitude of humility and bowing in prayer acknowledge that if we are not taught by the Spirit we are in a dreadful state, having no real understanding of ourselves. We need a saving acquaintance with the Lord Jesus. There should be a day when all the church comes together and on bended knee prays for the Spirit to give us the discernment needed to understand the Scripture as it applies in this day and is God will for his people and the Methodist Church.
“Teach me what I do not know.” Job 34:32
“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me!” Psalm 25:4-5
“All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.” Isaiah 54:13.
May we come together and end this nightmare.
Life is Good