Today was a nice break in the hectic pace of General Conference... a day of rest when all of us got to sleep in late, eat a nice breakfast, participate in worship, do laundry, and...
Several of us took the opportunity to attend the Love Your Neighbor Coalition's worship service in the Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa. We shared in inspiring music, convicting prayers, and communion with United Methodists from around the world.
The message for the morning was brought by Dr. James Cone of Union Theological Seminary in New York. In a sermon entitled "The Cross and the Lynching Tree," Dr. Cone reminded us that there is no resurrection without the cross. He called us to realize that Jesus' death on the cross is the promise of God to be present with all who suffer crucifixion's in our world. The gospel is not a nice story. The story of the cross is as ugly and brutal as the lynchings of black people in 19th and 20th century USA. But, "it is the story of God snatching victory out of defeat, finding life in death, transforming burning black bodies into transcendent windows for seeing the love and beauty of God."
Dr. Cone's message was challenging and hard, but it was a message that ended with hope rooted in the harsh realities of the world rather than mere sentimentalism. Hearing it brought new meaning and depth to the communion that we subsequently shared with each other. As Bishop Grant Hagiya and Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar spoke the words of institution, Dr. Cone's words continued to resound. They reminded us that the life we receive in the sacrament of communion has come at a great cost. The grace of God we receive in the sacrament must never be cheap. And the salvation to which we witness in the sacrament must never be trivialized or sentimentalized.
All in all, it was a wonderful time of renewal and revitalized hope.
Tomorrow, the work of the conference begins again in earnest. Pray for the Spirit to guide all of us through the confusion and help us to find the wisdom to make those decisions that are best for this church that we love.
First Clergy Reserve