6 February 2020

Our Mission, Our Purpose

Spending even a few days on Capitol Hill might sound like a horrible idea, especially in times like these, but God is truly at work in that space. Even in the most divided times, the Holy Spirit moves beyond our ability to do what is right. It is for that reason that the message of Christ and His good news is still so vital and important in our age in which we live. Christ provides liberation for the oppressed, comfort to the brokenhearted, healing for the sick, forgiveness to those who have sinned, and hope for the future. This is the good work being done by dedicated United Methodists who faithfully execute their calling on Capital Hill. The work of the General Board of Church and Society is these of the most crucial ministries of the United Methodist Church. It is because of the work of 30 people that the love of Christ is ever-present in our nation’s capital. It is because of the good people working out of our Methodist building across the street from the Supreme Court and a block from the Capitol Building that our elected officials may see Christ’s message of inclusion every day.

The picture with this post is the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. This ministry and missional site across the street from the Supreme Court and only a block away from the US Capitol Building affords us, United Methodists, the most favorable opportunity for dialoguing with the very people that can help to implement the social beliefs of our church. It is a vitally important ministry of the church as we seek to build the Kingdom of God on Earth that is inclusive and compassionate to all created children of God. The location of the building means that the members the House of Representatives and the Senate have to walk past our marquee sign whenever they walk between their offices and the Capitol Building. It is because of this that I even had the rare opportunity to meet Bernie Sanders when we walked up next to me at the crosswalk as I made my way to the Senate Offices. The building and the marquee have even made appearances on other representative’s social media pages. It shows that by being present where decisions are made, we can have an impact for Jesus Christ.

The quote on the marque the first day was from Martin Luther King Jr. It read: “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.” MLK gave his life fighting for those very values that made room for all persons to live the life that God had blessed them with. He dreamed of a beloved community where love is the basis of all decisions we make. Life provides us with many opportunities to make values-based decisions. With so many conflicting values surrounding us daily, it’s difficult to know what the best choices are in each moment. Jesus understood that to be the best versions of themselves, the disciples would need to make difficult decisions in their lives that would have run counter to much of the values they saw within the world. Jesus replied to their struggle by saying: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Matthew 22:37-39

In my time of reflection since returning from Washington DC, I have realized two things. Firstly, we need to loosen up. What I mean by that is that we have become a country and a people that is so focused on winning our position and not focused on the great commandments that Jesus left for us. By isolating ourselves, we only serve to hurt our church and our communities. I know that there are many times in my life where I became too wound up about the social and political conversations in our nation. The constant negativity has a tendency to anger me and I suspect that I am not alone in that feeling. I am passionate about my beliefs and how my faith guides me to view the world, as many others are as well, but sometimes this passion is not used for the betterment of society or the evoking of that Kingdom of God. This will probably always be a constant battle for me, but in order to express the values that I feel so strongly about, it will be necessary that I have an open heart to the feelings and thoughts of others. Secondly, there needs to be a conviction of the heart of all people in this country. When the heart becomes hardened, as many have, society itself becomes unstable and begins to crumble. The goal of Christianity has always been to evoke and invite the Kingdom of God into this world. This can not be accomplished if people continue to choose the same failing practices that have pitted us against our fellow humans for so long. While we were present in the Capitol Building, we had the wonderful experience to meet Chaplain Barry Black. Reverend Black is a Seventh-day Adventist minister who has previously served as both a Navy chaplain and is currently the chaplain for the United States Senate. In his conversation with us, he said that we must be 10 times better than we were before. He spoke about this in terms of education and our preparation for the ministry, but I also believe that we all need to be 10 times better in the ways in which we live our faith. I loved the advice that he offered because I believe that it is closely related to the word, The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. When we work to be 10 times better, we will be able to see the “radical revolution of values” to which MLK spoke of.

During his daily congressional prayer on the 27th of January, Chaplain Barry Black spoke about the millions were grieving the loss of Kobe Bryant and all those who perished in the helicopter crash the previous day. In his prayer, Chaplain Black reminded us of “life’s brevity, uncertainty, and legacy.” Chaplain Black reminded the nation and the representatives in the Senate chamber that we have a limited time here on Earth. I found this to be striking and vitally important thoughts for us to consider today. This forum that I attended in DC has shaped me to understand that the choices that we make reverberate throughout human history. It is true that some choices, like those of MLK, have a greater reach throughout history than many of the decisions the rest of us have or will ever make, but our choices are not insignificant. Each and every choice we make leaves an impression in the world that God has created, whether good or bad. Are we considering what legacy we will be leaving for future generations? Are we considering the legacy of the church in the world? Do we meditate on the desire that God has for our lives? The decisions that we make today will have a lasting impact on the people that we live with. The words that we say affect the people around us. Are we using words of grace, or are we utilizing words of derision? The choice is ours, but the consequences all too often are for those who come after us. Let us speak Kingdom language today, tomorrow, and the days ahead.

Let us pray. Almighty and most just God, give us a vision for a new future with Christ’s values as our center. May we be the people of justice, peace, and mercy that you have commanded us to be. Let us be peacemakers and war breakers. Give us hearts of grace, hands and feet of love, eyes that see you in every person, and minds that do not get in the way. Guide us, oh God, to places unseen, where your power transforms the most hardened hearts. Grant us forgiveness when we fail and stubbornness to always do your righteous work in the world. Open our hearts, minds, and doors to the people on the margins. Never allow us to remain in our brokenness, but to seek the healing for our souls. You are the mighty, beautiful, love unbounded, wise, creator of this world. May we never forget the call that you have placed on our hearts to be the truth of the gospel message, a message that does not discriminate based on orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic, political affiliation, or national identity. You are a God that sends us to march around cities and states until their walls crumble. You are the God who promised to move the figurative mountains that cloud our world and restrain our hearts. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns in us forever and ever. Amen.