Monday, September 30, 2013

Whose Side is God On?

With humanity comes “sides.”  They include political, theological, ethnicity, gender, etc. etc.  There are as many ways to be divided into opposing camps as there are issues and diversities on the planet earth.  We like to think that we are right and that God is on our side.   As United Methodists who discern our beliefs based on Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, we have Bible verses that support our “side.”  But does that necessarily mean that God is with us and not with the people with whom we disagree?  In our heart of hearts we know that God is bigger than this but somehow it is much easier to make God into our own image than to grapple with the God-presence in the “other.”
The Book of Jonah in the Old Testament is about the most outrageous four chapters in the Bible.  It proclaims, it screams, it sets off neon-colored fireworks in the sky that say “God is on everyone’s side!!!” and God goes to great lengths to embrace all in the circle of divine love.  In chapter one of Jonah we see the prophet fleeing from God because he does not want to preach repentance to the evil city of Nineveh. Jonah would prefer that they get what they deserve for their sins and be destroyed.  God would prefer that they get a second chance and be forgiven. God extends that same grace to Jonah by saving him in the ocean using a great fish as a life boat and to the good-natured sailors on the boat by calming the sea.  God is on everyone’s side working for salvation and the good of all. 

What would it look like if we, God’s children, took a page out of the Book of Jonah and worked toward the acceptance and good of all?  Do our partisan camps accomplish the work of the salvation of the world or does it create more division and strife among us?  Do you really want to look like Jonah, who at the end of the book (chapter 4), is pouting on the hill under a tree because God did not kill the Ninevites?  Can we instead rejoice that God wants everyone to be saved and join in that cause, putting aside our need to be right, our need to be God’s favorite, our need to see the other “side” lose?  God’s love is outrageously inclusive and sometimes offensive when we try to put God in a box and insist that we own God exclusively.  Who on the other “side” can you embrace this day with prayer, forgiveness and good will?   What sword and shield of self-righteousness can you lay down for the cause of God’s purpose of inclusive salvation?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Call to Prayer and Action

Grace and peace to you from The Lord Jesus Christ!  Our hearts are heavy once again at the news of another shooting in our nation.  This time at the Navy Yards in the Washington, DC area.  The flags are flying at half mast and so are our hearts as we grieve the death of the hard-working people who perished. Please pray for the families and the workers there but also pray for the family of the perpetrator.  Pray for the day when people who have troubled hearts can get the help they need before things like this happens.  Reach out to people who you perceive need help.

In addition our nation watches with horror as the people in Colorado have been devastated by flood waters.  We remember that from previous hurricanes and people helped us.  May we take special offerings in our churches for flood relief efforts. One hundred percent of our gifts to United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) goes to help the cause.*  Monies collected can be sent to our conference office.

The conference cabinets, lay leaders, staff, and I call all of you to prayer and action.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

*Download the UMCOR mobile app for up to the minute news on your phone or go to