St. Charles and Dover United Methodist Church
Monday, April 23, 2018
Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.

Pastor's Reflection



This morning I heard the news that the Rev. Billy Graham had died at 99 years of age. It brought back memories of the times I had been a special counselor at rallies. In his life time he did much to bring about change by his willingness to meet with and pray with world leaders, spiritual and movement leaders such as Martin Luther King, and generations of U.S. Presidents. Today the conservative evangelical church has lost much of the thread of those early days and many seem to have forgotten the Gospel he preached - the one that calls us to be a catalyst for change and be the ones who welcome the broken-hearted and left out, who validate the stories of those harmed and work to bring about change to systems that hurt, harm and hold people down. One of his legacies was the practice of the altar call. The history of that goes back to Rev. Charles Finley who began that as a response against slavery – stand for the abolishment of slavery – people came forward to commit to Jesus and to sign a document committing to the abolition of slavery. The practice for Rev. Billy Graham was a powerful message – it is not enough to say you believe, it is not enough for faith to remain an intellectual activity – it needs to be a commitment of your whole self to Jesus, including putting your body on the line – all in! 

We are in the season of Lent and then the season of Easter. The ministry of Jesus, the journey to the cross, the death and then resurrection should remind us that ours is an embodied, incarnational faith. It is not and never has been enough to say “I believe”. Today we have many powerful witnesses to the need for an incarnational faith – one that says we are ‘all in’ to bring about change. Whether it is the “Me Too” movement which has begun the long process of validation of women’s stories and changing the systemic devaluation of women and our culture of violence toward women, or “Silence is Not Spiritual” which seeks to change even the false narrative and interpretation of scripture we have built over generations that has justified even within the church treating women as less. Or the “Everytown USA” movement begun after the massacre at Sandy Hook, horror being relived right now at Parkland, Florida, a movement which includes mayors, communities and mothers who have said “Enough is Enough” and now the students who will not be ignored or silenced. Or “Black Lives Matter” or “LGBTQ Movement”. Each of these movements and many more today, are comprised of people putting their whole selves on the line to bring about change. It is exactly what Jesus did here on earth. 

Are all these people motivated by faith in Jesus Christ? Maybe not. But it is God’s movement, acknowledged or not, to reclaim the dignity and preciousness of all of God’s children. Jesus came to correct the narratives that were begun by those in power who claimed to speak for God, but spoke only for their own interests and power – who created God in their own image. It is what we are again a witness to today. Jesus today on earth would embody the change needed by non-violently confronting the false narratives that subjugate, devalue, harm, and even kill any person. He lived with those disciples - teaching, showing and empowering them to do all that he was doing. The stories were then given to us along with the Holy Spirit so that we too would put our whole selves into bringing about the upholding of the sacredness of all life and the equality and inclusion of everyone by God. 

So where are you being called to go “all in”? Where are you, are we, being asked to do more than just saying “I believe”? The altar call was a metaphor for getting to our feet and committing with more than just words of assent, but with our whole selves to being an active part of the kingdom of God now. Jesus did not come to earth to just forgive sins or just to die on the cross. His life and death and resurrection are a call to an embodied faith that answers by saying, “Here I am Send Me” and then joining in to make a difference for all people. 

So, where are you being called to go ‘all in’? 

                                                                                                                    Pastor Heather