This blog is written in response to the decision made at the General Conference meeting of the UMC February 23-26, 2019 to maintain the exclusive language in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexual persons.
those who have learned to love one another
have made their way to the lasting world
and will not leave,
From Sabbaths 1998.1, Wendell Berry
The essential teaching of Jesus Christ is LOVE. When asked what the most important commandment is, Jesus responded with the ancient and formative teaching from the Hebrew Bible that is prayed on a daily basis, called the Shema.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give today are to be upon your hearts. Talk about them with your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-7
When he replied to the expert in the law who asked him “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “What is written in the law? What do you say?” In other words, what does the Scripture say and how do you interpret it?” The man answered him, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:26-27)
Jesus answered him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)
Their conversation continued and Jesus followed with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
God intends for love to be at the center of our lives, at the center of our relationships. We are to teach love to our children, to make it part of every part of our lives, and to even wear it as reflected both the Shema and in Paul’s letter to the Colossians where he teaches them,
Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
It is hard to understand where the compassion, humility and the love are when the church decides that some belong in the church and some do not. Jesus’ entire ministry was about re-orienting the religious of his day to understand that God is the God of all people – even those that church folks considered outside the scope of righteousness. Jesus’ ministry confronted the Pharisees whose framework for religious inclusion was adherence to strict laws that Jesus challenged and even broke, and often. He spent his time with those that the religious elite scorned and excluded. He offered healing and reconciling actions to a broken community.
And they crucified him.
And we are still crucifying him.
God forgive us. Pour out your Holy Spirit that your people would see with hearts like Jesus all the people you have created in your image and who are worthy and loved and seeking to be included in the family of God where they can celebrate relationships of love, companionship, parenting and friendship following the way of Jesus Christ.
We at West Market Street UMC seek to be an open and loving community where all people who seek to be in relationship with Jesus Christ and to share in a life of love and service to his kingdom can be part a church family where LOVE REIGNS.
Pam Strader, Pastor of Discipleship and Congregational Care
March 1, 2019