An intriguing question is raised by the postponement of General Conference: will the United Methodist Church stay united? Prior to this crisis, we were preparing for our denomination to split in two or three, forming conservative, liberal, and moderate branches. Citing “irreconcilable differences,” many claimed that the break was inevitable.
At a meeting this past year, we were given various options and scenarios. At that meeting, I mentioned that we were leaving one thing out: that God might have something in mind no one had thought of yet. Guess what!
(This was not a prophecy; please don’t blame me for the coronavirus!)
This afternoon I was speaking with a colleague about the possibility that this crisis might unite us; that the twin threats of the pandemic and an economic collapse might make us all look at each other and say,
“those things we were fighting about back in February look really small now, don’t they?”
A handful of us cooked and distributed take-out meals at Sharing a Meal today; we had about 40 customers. This is the church at its simplest and best: “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink.” Our Thrift Shop continues the theme: “I was naked and you clothed me.” (No one shops there naked, but you know what I mean!) There is nothing as pure as helping to fill basic needs. We never ask, “Are you a liberal?” before selling a 50-cent tie, or “Are you a conservative?” before passing someone a meal.
Guess what Congress did today! They passed something bipartisan!
Bet you didn’t see that coming a couple months ago.
We just don’t know what God has in mind. We don’t know what will happen day to day. We never did, but now we really don’t know it. Our minds are filled with the worst “what ifs” ~ “What if I lose my job? What if we have another depression? What if millions die?” These are not healthy what ifs. Since we don’t know what the future holds, it’s equally fair to ask, “What if churches around the world all decide that they want to put aside doctrine and work together for the good of humanity? What if the United Methodist Church stays together?
What if Christianity sees a new revival?
Robert Schuller calls this “peace of mind through possibility thinking.” Many know Shuller from California’s Crystal Cathedral; he was also a spiritual descendent of Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. Their ideas expand on those of Paul, who writes, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things … and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV abbreviated).
The bottom line is, we don’t know what the next day will bring. We do know that God is good.
So why not stay positive, and claim God’s promise of peace?