Hold on to a friend... StockSnap/27597 pixabay
Well, that’s not how I wanted to see the Church in the news.
Finally! Coverage in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, NPR. But it’s for all the wrong reasons. It’s about how the United Methodist Church is doubling down on being less inclusive of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It’s about the church mirroring the country’s political divide. It’s about the church most likely splitting, a broken body.
Yesterday and today is a day for grieving and lamentation. But as many have posted on social media – the work of the church will continue. The work of inclusion doesn’t stop. “The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.”
Even today, in sorrow, God calls us to get to work. This blog is called “Inspiring Generosity.” God calls us to be generous even when we don’t feel like it, even when we’re depressed, even when our hearts are broken.
Last night, my church’s book group met for a planned dinner. Afterward, we rolled 100 garbage bags to hand out at church at the beginning of Lent. For 40 days we are challenging people to put one piece of clothing or housing item in that bag every day and then donate it. As a bonus challenge, we are encouraging people to bring in seven food items for the local food bank every Sunday during Lent. By doing, by acting, by serving, our collective moods rapidly changed.
Doing service – being generous – won’t miraculously alter what happened in St. Louis. But it might just change us and renew our conviction to keep striving toward that mountain top that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King so eloquently talked about in his final sermon.
Last week, I wrote about the Good Samaritan hoping that the United Methodist Church might take on the mantel of being the Good Samaritan for all LGBTQ persons. That didn’t happen. Perhaps, then, we can take heart from MLK’s reflections on the Good Samaritan -- in that sermon he delivered the night before he was assassinated:
But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles -- or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level.
That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass."
And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"
That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job.” Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.
We are called to continue on that road to Jericho – the “Bloody Pass.” To boldly walk it, no matter how scared or how sad we are. The Good Samaritan, the One we follow, calls us to do nothing less.