2020 promises to be an eventful year. We always want to be optimistic as we enter into new adventures, and hope about the future. However, 2020 could offer a number of challenges that will push our spirits and test the understanding of our faith.
Political discourse will continue to dominate the news cycles. Impeachment trials, primaries, debates, and elections will test our patience with political leaders. Truth will continue to be a lost virtue in a world of spin. While once upon a time, truth was held as a common core value, now, truth is not tied to facts, but individual experiences, “My Truth”, and to partisans’ interpretations of reality. Many Christians have placed great hope in political leaders, past and present to bring about ideological conclusions tied to theological understandings. Historically, Christians have discovered that this misplaced allegiance has led to disappointment and dangerous directions for both the church and state.
Kings and Popes, Priests and Politicians have failed throughout history to maintain their focus on the incarnation of God in Christ and Christ in us. They became distracted by power, greed, arrogance, money, and countless other elements that provided a false sense of control. History and Scripture are filled with stories of the rise and fall of leaders who lost focus on the Divine and allowed their own selfish nature to take over. The results of self-centered leadership are as consistent as they are troubling.
On the Church front, the United Methodist Church will continue to struggle with the “United” part of our name. In 2020, we will witness perhaps the last General Conference of the United Methodist Church May 5-15 in Minneapolis. While the results are yet to be known, the divisions within the Church are clear and defined. Who will leave the denomination? How many denominations will end up emerging from the old United Methodist Church? All of this is yet to be determined. Annual Conferences, which generally meet in late May and early June, will determine their willingness to stay or leave the United Methodist Church. Jurisdictions will meet in July to respond to both the General Conference actions and the Annual Conferences, which make up the different jurisdictions. Why type of Church we will be is yet to be determined.
In short, 2020 could be a “Mess”! But, it could also be a year of possibilities. Historically, when political, social, and religious institutions struggle, when those things we have looked toward for guidance lack stability or trust, spirituality moves inward. These are corrective periods in history when we are faced with the reality that faith is best placed in God and not the institutions that we have built to navigate the world.
Beautiful things have emerged from periods of instability. Great spiritual practices have developed in times of dissidence. At Gresham United Methodist Church, we will live into the dissidence and embrace the opportunities to focus our faith beyond institutions and toward the Christ that calls to us to live out the gospel of hope, love, peace and joy. We will have opportunities for individual and group spiritual formation. We will host the Walk to Emmaus in the spring, which is a focused 72-hour spiritual retreat. We will have scripture studies and formation classes in prayer and praying scripture. We will have regular Taize worship monthly. The 9:00am service will continue to focus on spiritual formation and practice.
When Solomon was preparing to build the first temple, the divine-human dialogue included the following.
“14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” 2 Chronicles 7:12-16
The new year will require humility, prayer, true spiritual seeking and repentence.
May 2020 be a year of opportunities for all people. May we move beyond the obvious to the mysterious. May we seek truth not in systems, but in the Spirit. Happy New Years and Walk in Grace.