5 Point Friday: UMC General Conference Reflections and Being Entrusted with Grace (01MAR19)

Joseph Brandley 0 Comments

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Peter 4:8-11

What is happening in this Scripture?
1 Peter is an interesting letter. It is purportedly written by the apostle, Peter, but some modern scholars are unconvinced. It’s a complicated letter that we have to read carefully because, as much of the Bible, some portions of this letter could be used for harm instead of expressing the love of Christ. But, remembering that this author wrote in a specific context to specific people, I think the message of the letter seems to culminate with the instruction, “Above all, maintain constant love for one another.” The author describes this as being “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” I think regardless of context, maintaining constant love as good stewards of God’s grace will draw us and those around us closer to Christ.

Entrusted with Grace:
The Book of Discipline (the standard for the United Methodist Church) defines grace as “the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit. . . We assert that God’s grace is manifest in all creation even though suffering, violence, and evil are everywhere present.” What does it mean to be entrusted with this? What does it mean to be a good steward of this grace? I think one of the most important ways we can be good stewards of God’s grace is spending time in God’s grace: learning from it, growing in it, following where it leads us, and sharing it with others. It’s hard to improve upon 1 Peter’s instruction to “maintain constant love for one another” as a description for good stewardship of God’s grace in this world.

A verse from my weekly devotionals:
One of the things I do to try to grow in my faith is spending time reading Scripture. This isn’t something I’ve been particularly good at in the past, but I am getting better and better as I practice the discipline and means of grace. This week, I was reading from 2 Corinthians when I came across this verse: “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (4:1) As we consider what it means to be “entrusted with Grace,” it’s important to recognize that there seem to be infinite reasons to become discouraged. Whether it’s an illness, the crumbling of a relationship, the success of somebody you disagree with, or the slow trudge of doing the right thing day after day with seemingly little to show, this verse is a reminder to me that I am not seeking my will, I am not seeking to do my ministry, I am not seeking anything for my own, but instead I strive to fix my eyes upon God and it is through God’s mercy that I can share love and kindness with others and live into God’s will for this world. With the encouragement and strength that only comes through God, I can continue regardless of the reasons that make me feel like stopping.

Thoughts on 2019 General Conference
You may have heard through the church of a news service that the governing body of the United Methodist Church met this past week to vote on legislation concerning the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the full life of the church. I, like many of you, have many thoughts about the decision that was made. I’ll reserve most of my thoughts for another time. One thought I would like to share at this time is where and who I experience to be the Church. The General Conference is the rule-making body for the UMC. But I experience the Church through those of you reading this post. Through the members of UUMC who welcomed me when I wondered in through the doors and wasn’t really sure where I belonged. I experienced the Church through small groups who wrestle with Scripture, seeking to make sense of the Truth that God is trying to reveal to us. I experience Church in worship services where I have to take a deep breath before speaking to speak through the tears that are stirred by a beautiful song, sermon, or Scripture. I experience the Church through generations of people standing side-by-side while packing meals to feed the hungry, while teaching kids to read, or while building homes for those in need. I experience the Church with the people of UUMC because it is full of people who want nothing more than to live a life that, “above all, maintain[s] constant love for one another” in a way that affirms God’s grace does not discriminate and is entrusted to each and every one of us. The General Conference makes rules. By the grace of God, you make the Church. Thank you for showing me the Church.

A quote worth memorizing:
“He [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Sam Hamann

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