I am currently working on my Radio Devon Sunday Service message, which is to be aired on 24th March. In light of the diabolical political situation in the UK (ie the great Brexit divide) I thought it would be appropriate to give a kick-in-the-pants message about the importance getting on with people we don’t like.
But I have awakened to news that Pakistan has retaliated again India’s military action with military action of their own; that the US Senate will be listening to Cohen’s testimony regarding the President’s alleged criminal activity while in office; and that the United Methodist Church Special General Assembly to decided not only to ban LGBT+ clergy and same-sex marriage, but make moves towards punitive behaviours towards congregations that support the LGBT issues. But these are not issues, they are people, created by God in God’s image. And they have been told to get out or else.
I am wondering if it is time to give up on the living-in-harmony thing. I am wondering if it is time to say let the UMC split. I am wondering if I should preach something else.
I am sad.
I am sad that people can’t love each other as Christ has called us to.
I am sad that, with every passing day, my decision to move from the US and to the UK and affiliate myself with the British Methodist Church is affirmed by current events.
I am sad that I and others I know have felt they had to leave the UMC because they were not welcome.
I am sad that I don’t want to visit the place of my birth and see my family because I cannot bear to spend time in what feels like an unloving country.
I am sad that so many of the values I was brought up believing – freedom and justice for all, with a bit of hard work you can achieve anything – only apply to select group of people who look and act like those who currently hold power.
I suppose I am an optimist, but today I am not feeling very optimistic. Today I am feeling angry and frustrated and I am questioning the point of my life’s work – healing the sick and bringing light and love into places of darkness. Is it worth the effort?
I believe the Kingdom of God will come, and all people will be able to live together in peace and harmony, but I am gutted to think that in the course of twenty four hours the Kingdom has receded further into the distance.
What am I – what are we – to do? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?
The book of Micah is an interesting and hopeful commentary on the present times, so long as you are on the right side of God. You can find it online if you don’t have a print copy of the Bible.
Over and over again, in the Bible, the people of God overstep their boundaries. Over and over again the people of God forget their past trials and how – through God’s grace and mercy – they arrived at a place of some standing in the world. They think they’ve gotten there on their own merits, and they’ve forgotten God’s warnings about the consequences of their selfish behaviour: they will fall. And then they will repent and make a new start. And then they will forget again. And again. And again.
And so, it seems, we never get any closer to entering the Kingdom of God this side of physical death. Why, then, do we pray ‘your Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven’?
The UK is not a perfect place, and the British Methodist Church has its own set of potentially fatal flaws. But I still feel closer to the Kingdom of God here than I did in the US.
Not a day goes by that I am not grateful to be in this place. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish some of the liberal, taken-for-granted aspects of British society (cross-cultural, interracial marriage, for example) could be transplanted into the most conservative parts of America.
I am sad today, but I am glad I am here.