How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
-Psalm 133:1, 3b
Today, the Council of Bishops strongly recommend that United Methodists stay together as ONE CHURCH.
Together, the council agreed to recommend that the 2019 General Conference make room for individuals, local churches and annual conferences to exercise conscience as they choose whether or not to ordain gay and lesbian clergy, or to perform weddings for couples of the same gender, by removing prohibitive language from the Book of Discipline, and letting Annual Conferences set standards for ordination, and same gender weddings.
This recommendation emerged out of honest anguish and disagreement, as well as patient listening and fervent prayer, as we met in closed session. We make this recommendation despite deep and painful differences in our understanding of God’s will for LGBTQ people and a recognition that the “contextual” teachings and practices of the church in one area not only makes ministry more difficult in other areas, but can cause real harm to people.
While forces around the world are sowing distrust and driving wedges to divide people against one another, we hope The United Methodist Church can be a witness to the whole world that people can live together in peace and love each other, despite profound disagreements, even as we continue to discern God’s will and way for the whole human family.
Living in hope,
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area
To United Methodists in the Greater Northwest and all who read these words, wherever you are:
Between last week’s HOSANNA! and Easter’s ALLELUIA! we watch as Jesus walks to his death at the hands of secular and religious authorities, but emerges on the other side, victorious by the power of love at work in the world.
If we haven’t already cast the story with bunnies, daffodils and butterflies, we will recognize this story wherever hope breaks forth from despair. In the crowds of young people in the streets of America, marching, pleading, promising to claim their chance to live without the fear of being stalked and killed at school or at home, or in the neighborhood.
We will recognize the story among immigrants, who have left everything behind, travelled at great peril across deserts, war zones, oceans, boundaries, to arrive in foreign, often hostile lands in hopes of living in freedom, security and opportunity.
We will recognize the story among the poor and homeless who live every day like birds or tiny fur friends in hidden corners, and under bushes, in alleys, behind abandoned walls, in defiance of the powers of death that hem them in before and behind.
We will recognize the Jesus story in our own lives every time we break free from habits of thought and practice that do not serve us well – routines, sorrows, low expectations, petty grievances that we give safe harbor, allowing them to dull our senses and lower our gaze.
We will recognize Jesus, alive and well every time we hear the unlikely – miraculous story, really – of someone walking out of the valley of the shadow of death into the dazzling light of a new day.
You see, the Jesus story isn’t about Jesus, really. His death and resurrection weren’t about him at all. They were about us. They were about God’s magnificent creation, coming out from behind a cloud. Jesus lived and loved and died and rose to open our hearts, our minds and the doors of our small lives to the way God’s love in and through us can make all things new. This is the body of Christ, broken for you. This is the cup of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many.
May new hope dawn in your life, in our nation, and on this precious, precarious planet. May a way open that you thought was closed. And may you discover unimagined blessing.
So shall we shout, Alleluia!
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area
An Open Letter
To: Rev. Tom Lambrecht, member of the Commission on a Way Forward
From: Elaine Stanovsky, bishop of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church
My heart is not at war. I am not using clergy and staff appointments to undermine the unity of the Church or the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. My heart was at peace when I appointed Rev. Kathleen Weber to my cabinet. It was at peace when I approved hiring Rev. Brett Webb-Mitchell by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. These are two deeply faithful, highly qualified, effective leaders, well suited for the ministry contexts they are called to serve. They were not chosen for their sexual orientation. I did not disqualify them because they are honest about their relationships.
I’ll admit that I felt defensive when I read your article, “Northwest United Methodist Defiance.”[i] “Poke in the eye,” “overt defiance,” “callous disregard,” “double-barreled assault,” “escalation,” “in your face repudiation.” Why do you think you know my heart? We never had a conversation.
So, I returned to the The Anatomy of Peace,[ii] recommended by the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops as a way to disarming ourselves for the difficult conversations the Church needs to have. I re-read the section called, “From War to Peace,” and practiced the steps for “getting out of the box” of self-justification and blaming:
- Look for the signs of self-justification and blaming. This was easy for me. You took two of my actions out of context, weaponized them with aggressive rhetoric, and lobbed them into the last meeting of the Commission. You misrepresented my motives. You never asked me what I believe, why I believe what I believe or why I lead the way I lead. And you didn’t even have the courtesy to send me your article. I first saw it when a friend forwarded it to me as an email distributed on March 16, 2018, three days before it was available publicly as a blog on the Good News Magazine You aren’t practicing the practices that the Commission recommends.
- Find an out–of-the box place. There was a time when a colleague lashed out at me in a meeting, accusing me of racism. I broke into tears and retreated from the meeting and the accusation. A friend sought me out, listened to my pain and invited me to be the whole and well person he knew that I could be. My heart returned to peace and I was able to approach the person I had offended, and begin a long slow journey to healing.
- Ponder the situation anew. What are this person’s challenges, trials, burdens and pains? How am I adding to them? Wow! I only know you as a guy who attacks from a safe distance rather than picking up the phone. Can I cultivate curiosity about what pain you bear? How are your opinions and actions shaped by your love of Jesus?
- Act upon what I have discovered; do what I think I should do. I think I should not strike back. I should respond with curiosity. Yet, I think I should not remain silent. I invite you to play fair. I invite you to disarm. Despite deep misgivings, I will give you the benefit of my doubt – that you might want our United Methodist Church to be strong into the future and faithful to God’s leading as much as I do. I hope and pray this is true. If it is true, and we are willing, God can teach each of us to love the other as we love ourselves. I invite you to talk with me before you write about me. I invite you to send me a copy of anything you write about me before you send it to your email distribution list or post it on the internet. I will commit to abiding by the same standard in the future.
You are meeting with the Commission on a Way Forward as I write. I pray for you, Tom, and for the work of the Commission. I pray for the future of our church, that we will find a way to continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ, even as we continue to seek to understand the fullness of God’s intention for humankind. I hope that, as a member of the Commission, you are leading us in the way the Commission said it would at the beginning. Do you remember?
The Commission will design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible. – Commission on a Way Forward: About Us
We need a Church that aspires to this vision: one church, a variety of expressions; one body, many parts. In the Northwest we’re cultivating this spirit, in support of the Commission’s work, as we send 50 trained leaders across the area to facilitate Table Talks about the Way Forward between now and June, and dedicate 4 ½ hours during our Annual Conference sessions to The Anatomy of Peace and small group conversations. God is at work when two or three gather. I’m expecting miracles.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
[i] “Northwest United Methodist Defiance,” by Thomas Lambrecht, circulated by email from email@example.com on Friday, March 16, 2018, and posted as personal blog on Monday, March 19, http://tomlambrecht.goodnewsmag.org/northwest-united-methodist-defiance/.
[ii] The Anatomy of Peace, resolving the heart of conflict, The Arbinger Institute, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky is inviting United Methodists in the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences to participate in Table Talk conversations on human sexuality, the upcoming report of the Commission on a Way Forward and special called session of the General Conference in February 2019. The conversations will be held in various settings across the Greater Northwest Area.
Early in March, 47 leaders from the three conferences were trained to convene these conversations in a worship-full context. In her invitation to these leaders, Bishop Stanovsky shared that the United Methodist Council of Bishops is encouraging similar “conversation in each annual conference to further our life together around matters of human sexuality and church unity.” This facilitator training allowed them to experience and offer feedback on a model for conversation that they will take out to other groups across the area.
Noted worship designer and leader Dr. Marcia McFee resourced attendees at the training held at Christ United Methodist Church, west of Portland, Oregon. Worship is an essential element of how we work together as the Church and McFee was brought in to offer creative guidance and insight. Nancy Tam Davis, Pacific Northwest Conference lay leader, and the Rev. Donna Pritchard, Senior Pastor at Portland’s First United Methodist Church and Commission on a Way Forward member, also provided facilitation and insight.
Trainees gathered with a spirt of curiosity, hopefulness, and anticipation. Bishop Stanovsky, Pritchard, and others offered insight to participants on the state of the larger church’s conversation before they experienced the time of meal, worship and conversation that they are being asked to replicate and lead.
What to Expect at Table Talks
The Table Talk design allows for a safe place for conversations about topics that may be difficult or divisive. According to McFee, “Surrounding the conversations in worship is a way to ground ourselves in the story of our faith and our own hearts.”
Before entering discussion, participants will be invited to commit to a simple covenant. In short, the covenant asks them to: (1) Stay Curious, (2) Be Kind, and to (3) Listen with the same amount of passion with which they want to be heard.
Rev. Carlo Rapanut, Alaska Conference Superintendent and a member of the design team asked the questions, “How did Jesus deal with conflict?” Then citing Luke 22:14 he pointed out that, “Jesus would start a difficult conversation by gathering for a meal.” So most of the Table Talk sessions will include some sort of meal time to allow for connection and conversation.
Facilitators learned that there isn’t a specific outcome expected from the conversations, but rather that there be a forum and process for respectful dialog. According to Stanovsky, “Table Talks aren’t an attempt to make everyone think or believe alike. But they are an opportunity to ask if our differences need to drive us apart? Or is there a way that we can honor one another, stay together, and continue at one table, in one conversation as we continue to seek to understand God’s will?”
Oregon-Idaho Conference Lay Leader Jan Nelson is one of the facilitators. She reflects that, “There are many issues that we avoid discussing even with our friends and families. It’s important for us in the church to model a way to talk about things that divide us. In this way, both laity and clergy can be witnesses to God’s love.”
While it is intended that all Table Talks provide a place to grow in understanding, each conversation will take on a certain character of its own. It is intended that they take place in districts, church clusters, ethnic caucuses, and within other groups and existing networks. Some Table Talks may include 40-50 persons while others may be relatively small in number. The questions and beliefs of participants will inevitably shape the conversation to some degree as well.
The Commission on a Way Forward
The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed at the 2016 General Conference by the Council of Bishops “to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” The proposal was approved, and a 32-member commission was named in October of 2016. You can learn more about their composition, vision, and how they are structuring their work here. The Bishops have also called a Special Session of the General Conference to be held be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri limited to acting on the report from the Council “based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.”
In December, the Commission on a Way Forward filed a report with the Council of Bishops outlining three “sketches” or possible models for how the denomination might move beyond the current impasse regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ persons. The Commission met again in January to continue its work on these sketches after receiving input from the Council. Following the most recent Council of Bishop’s meeting, it was reported that there are two plans under consideration.
How to participate
Dates for Table Talks will be published as they are made available on the Greater Northwest Area Website. They will also be on their respective Annual Conference calendar. If you don’t see one near you, check back later as more may be added.
Friends in the Greater Northwest,
Yesterday Bishop Bruce Ough led us back to a principle that has guided Methodism throughout our history: God always leads Christians into ministry on the margins with the poor and outcast.
As the Council of Bishops meets to receive and consider the report of the Commission on the Way Forward, receive Bishop Ough’s sermon as a message of courage and hope for the whole Church. Please hold us in prayer, as we seek to lead the church on a path of faithfulness and obedience to God.
Friday, nearly 50 leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences will gather to be equipped to lead “Table Talks” across the area where United Methodists can seek unity in the church that is deeper than our different understandings and attitudes about human sexuality. The differences are undeniable. They have strained the Church for more than 40 years. In these conversations we hope to understand what informs our differences from one another, so that we can respect one another, learn from one another, and continue to be members of one, undivided Church as we continue to listen to God’s leading through these differences.
The Table Talks will occur throughout the spring. I hope to see you there, to hear your voice, and to prayerfully, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, see the ways to live together in peace.
This is powerful, difficult spiritual work — worthy of the sober self-reflection of Lent. Any time we pause, turn to one another and God, and pray, we live in the promise of new life, revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I pray that as we gather, humbly and prayerfully, there will be enough light to show us the way.
With hope in the resurrection,
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area
Ash Wednesday 2018
Today is marked by HEARTS and ASHES. Valentine’s Day celebrates the union of two people by love. Ash Wednesday leads us into the 40-day journey with Jesus through death to resurrection with a reminder that we are one with the stuff of the earth – dirt, ash.
Charles Wesley wrote that:
Love, like death, hath all destroyed,
Rendered all distinctions void;
Names and sects and parties fall;
Thou, O Christ, art all in all.[I]
Both love and death erase boundaries that separate us from one another. Receiving ashes smudged on a forehead, or a hand, is a humbling of self and a reminder that we live because God breathes life into dust. We are at once nothing, and one-with-everything.
This is the mystic mystery of living as creatures in relationship with the Creator. We are undeniably distinct individuals at the same time that we participate in a deep and inescapable unity with all of creation.
So, I celebrate both.
First, I receive ashes, which keep me from thinking more highly of myself than I ought to think (Romans 12:3) and to find my common humanity with all I meet. Second, I receive roses and a poem from my life partner, Clint, who draws me out of myself in so many ways and enters my solitude when I have retreated.
May you know your precious, existential uniqueness this day. And may you humbly receive the gift of shared life with others. Both are God’s gracious gifts.
The United Methodist Church continues its search for unity despite differences that threaten to divide us. Please read the following letter from Bishop Bruce Ough (CLICK HERE), President of the Council of Bishops of our Church, and pray for our church as we continue to seek unity that is deeper than our differences. Hear these hopeful words of John Wesley:
Many are we now, and one,
we who Jesus have put on;
there is neither bond nor free,
male nor female, Lord, in thee.
May we all “put on” Jesus again, and anew, this holy season.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area
[i] “Christ, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” by Charles Wesley, The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989, #550.
Image Credit: Foreheads on Ash Wednesday by Kelsey Johnson via CreationSwap.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43: 19 NRSV
God’s doing a new thing. The Church is trying to keep up!
Take a minute and just enjoy.
The Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest and Alaska Conferences have worked collaboratively to cultivate vital ministries since Rev. Stephan Ross (Oregon-Idaho) and Rev. Dr. William Gibson (Pacific Northwest) started working together and across conference boundaries a couple of years ago. We’re breaking down silos to work collaboratively across conference lines, and across traditional staff job descriptions. Today an Innovation Team is taking shape to work in collaboration with district superintendents and local leaders to create new places for new people who are not finding authentic faith community in our churches as they are right now.
Meet the Greater Northwest Innovation Cultivation team, as it is taking form:
The newest member of the team is Dr. Leroy Barber, newly hired Congregational Developer for Vitality for the Oregon-Idaho Conference.
Dr. Barber joins Pacific Northwest staff, Rev. Dr. William Gibson, who will lead the team (Gibson shares some of his thinking in a recent video series), Kristina Gonzalez, a gifted trainer in cultural competency, coaching and leadership development, and Rev. Shalom Agtarap. I invited Agtarap to be one of our preachers for the 2017 Annual Conference; you can hear her message online. We plan to add a specialist who will help churches at the lower boundary of sustainability to explore options for the future. Stay tuned.
Together these innovation cultivators, working with the Congregational Development Team (CDT) in Oregon-Idaho, the Board of Congregational Development (BOCD) in Pacific Northwest, the New Church and Faith Community Development Committee in Alaska and the district superintendents are dedicated to leading a new season of vital ministry across the Greater Northwest through:
- Innovation: starting new ministries, new churches, new faith communities
- Multiplication: existing ministries in new places, and
- Inclusion: reaching across racial and cultural differences to engage a wider variety of people in faith communities.
Together, this team has first-hand experience in starting new churches, multi-cultural ministry, adaptive change, reconciling ministries, re-energizing and leading existing churches into their neighborhoods, and community organizing. They bring urban, rural and suburban experience. Together there is breadth, strength and wisdom that is the miracle of community. Please pray with me for this team as it forms, and the members listen to one another, and share their passion for vital ministries, and learn to work creatively across Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. As this team’s work evolves, look for upcoming stories that will detail how you and your congregation can access these resources.
Do we really have to? Yes. God – who last time I checked was as old as the hills – is all about making things new. So, it’s time to move, to shake off, to leave behind. And as much as we may like things as they are (or were!), God’s way is ahead of us, and if we want to be part of what God’s up to, we’ve got to get moving. What are you willing to give up so new people can be part of a life-giving, world-changing community?
I’m humming Curtis Mayfield’s 1965 anthem for the change God is working –
People get ready, there’s a train a-comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area
Installment # 2: Already, but Not Yet
Dear United Methodist friends in the Pacific Northwest,
Top of 2018 to you! I pray that God will lead us on a good path this year, that
and showers joy
into the world through our lives, our ministries and our churches.
Last June, the Annual Conference voted to reduce by one the number of districts in the Pacific Northwest. We are in the process of living into this re-assignment of churches to districts. I want to let you know how the process is unfolding, and what to expect in the months ahead.
Officially, but invisibly, churches were ALREADY assigned to the new MISSIONAL districts as of January 1, 2018 to avoid confusing mid-year budgetary and administrative changes. I say “invisibly,” because local churches won’t notice much, if any change – NOT YET!
We are emphasizing that districts are MISSIONAL because every church is called to reach beyond itself to engage its community in life-giving, world-transforming ways. Districts help established congregations to think beyond themselves and to innovate in ways that create new places for new people with the potential to transform lives, communities, and even the world.
The district superintendent you had in 2017 will continue to supervise your pastor and consult with your congregation until Annual Conference in June. If you have a pastoral change, the district superintendent you’ve had in the past will introduce your new pastor and work with you through the transition.
During the first half of 2018 district superintendents will work with elected leaders to create and implement an organization and identify officers for the new missional districts. By July 1, 2018 all organizational units and officers should be aligned to the new missional district boundaries. Also on July 1 pastors and churches will begin to identify with their new missional district assignment and to its district superintendent.
During Annual Conference we will have opportunity to mark the shift and meet as colleagues and friends within our new district affiliations.
My question is, who’s gonna organize the Crest to Coast relay to inaugurate the new district?
If you have questions or concerns during this transition, the district superintendents are prepared to respond.
Change comes with challenges. There will undoubtedly be some unexpected bumps and grinds. I pray that each of you will help us make this transition as smooth as possible. With your good will (and humor) and God’s grace, we’ll make it.
Living in Faith,
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
I call upon all who hear this message to give public witness to your love of God and neighbor this Martin Luther King, Jr. week by 1) participating in public commemorations, 2) advocating for racial, social and economic justice with elected officials and 3) serving human need in your community.
The last 24 hour news cycle presented me with four puzzle pieces that did not fit into a picture that made sense to me.
President Trump issued his Martin Luther King Jr. Day message to the nation this morning. He taped it yesterday. It is well-crafted and high-minded:
…Dr. King opened the eyes and lifted the conscience of our nation. He stirred the hearts of our people to recognize the dignity written in every human soul. Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth that Americans hold so dear – that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God….Today …we pledge to fight for his dream of equality, freedom, justice and peace.
But, last evening the President of the United States may have profanely said Haiti, African and other nations produce people who are worthy of the dung heap. We don’t know if the reports are true. But we do know that the President has consistently pursued immigration policies aimed at excluding or disadvantaging persons based on his evident religious or racial bias.
3. Earthquake Anniversary
Today is the anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010. Watch my interview with UMCOR’s Rev. Jim Gulley, who was trapped for 55 hours in a collapsed hotel.
4. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, commemorating the world-changing life of a man who helped lead our nation to recognize and address its deep injustices.
When I first set these pieces next to each other I felt confused, and then I got pretty mad. It was righteous, faith-based anger. God gave me this anger as companion to love of neighbor. Don’t be messing with my neighbors! It makes me MAD!
Let me introduce you to some of my beloved neighbors:
In October of 2011, I led United Methodists from the Mountain Sky Area on a mission trip to Haiti. It was nearly two years after the earthquake of 2010 devastated that island nation. The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team boarded a flight in Miami that was chock full of teams like ours, as nearly every flight at that time was: young and old volunteers, wearing brightly colored mission team T-shirts – Christian groups, civic organizations, and student service clubs – all flocking to Haiti to help.
I was on a team that went to the small town of Mellier, where the local church and school had crumbled to the ground. We worked for a week in a long series of teams to clear the rubble, frame foundations, haul rock and concrete in wheelbarrows to build a new church and school. We worked hand in had with local residents, hired with our financial contributions so that the reconstruction work not only used volunteer labor, it also benefitted local workers. And, we brought crafts and soccer balls and led and learned songs and skits with the children of the school, who were meeting in temporary plywood rooms erected by an earlier mission team from Europe. Our food was cooked on a wood stove by local women. Our drivers, and interpreters were all Haitian. Every one of them lived in poverty. Every one had a story of how they and their loved ones had been affected by the earthquake.
We all fell a little “in love” with Haiti, the first black republic in the world, with its rich culture and generous, gracious people, despite centuries of colonial violence, chronic poverty, meager natural resources, and corrupt public administration. We experienced people living in piles of rubble, who nonetheless walked, worked and welcomed us with self-evident and irrepressible dignity.
In 2011, Imagine No Malaria brought me in a delegation to Angola in West Africa to distribute anti-Malaria bed nets to protect families from the deadly disease. Here, too, we experienced lovely, industrious people, struggling to live well, to get an education and to care for one another under circumstances of extreme difficulty. Not one of them belonged on a dung heap.
My Piece of the Puzzle
These seem like dangerous times, when core principles of human decency and social justice are in question. The puzzle pieces don’t fit together by themselves. I have a place in the puzzle.
So, this morning I renewed my personal commitment to bearing public witness to my love of God and neighbor. I figured out which public events I will participate in to honor the life, ministry and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend. I see it as my job as God’s partner in creating the “new king/kin-dom.” Clint and I will join a public commemoration in Seattle, to join a community of people who recognize and work for the dignity of all God’s people.
Where will you be?
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Using the vivid example of creative problem solving featured in the movie Apollo 13, the Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Gibson offers a fresh look at the feeding of the multitudes in Matthew’s Gospel discovering a message for today’s church. Gibson argues that too often in the church, we allow our anxieties to shift our own thinking away from “what God is already up to” toward what he calls “the scarcity of the moment” to the detriment of what is possible.
There is no question, that in what is emerging as a post-Christian America, that there are challenging times for the church.
But it’s in these anxious moments when we’re trying to navigate a 21st-century landscape of how to do church differently that we become anxious; we talk about what we don’t have rather than what we do have. We say we don’t have enough money, we don’t have enough people, we don’t have the right facilities, it’s not possible. We get caught up in the scarcity of the moment rather than the abundance of God.
I’m reminded of this story – I don’t know if you remember this or not, Apollo 13. Now if you are a movie buff you probably seen the movie with Tom Hanks in it, right? This is a mission to the moon, and on the way to the moon they have this problem with the spacecraft.
After the famous words, “Houston, we have a problem,” Gene Kranz gathers all the NASA engineers into this room to begin this problem-solving exercise. All this chaos ensues and everybody’s arguing about which problem should take priority. There’s just this lots of noise that it’s an engine issue, it’s an oxygen issue, it’s all these kinds of things.
And finally Gene Kranz says, “cut it out! Just be quiet. Can we start with what on the spacecraft is working?” And once they turn their attention away from the problems and issues to the assets on the spacecraft they begin to problem solve in a way that became one of NASA’s greatest accomplishments. They brought three astronauts safely back to Earth.
The same thing happens in the church. We get caught up; our anxiety drives us to begin to think about what’s not possible and it turns our attention away from the things we’ve been blessed with.
Matthew chapter 14 also is a story where Jesus is there on the side of the shores of the sea of Galilee and this large crowd has gathered. And it’s getting late and the disciples come to Jesus and they say, “Hey, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, the sun is going down. We need to send these people home. You need to ask them to go home because they’re going to have to eat.”
And Jesus said, “That won’t be necessary, you feed them.”
The disciples look at each other, like, “he’s crazy, right?” And they say to Jesus, “That’s not possible. I don’t know if you are aware of this but we only have these two stinking fish and these five loaves of bread.”
Jesus, in that moment, recognizes a teaching opportunity. He says, “bring them here.” So Jesus essentially says bring me what you have and he takes what the disciples are offering and he blesses it and it multiplies enough to feed a multitude of people.
Our anxiety causes us to turn our attention away from what God is already up to. It causes us to focus on the scarcity of the moment. What if we were to turn our attention to the abundance of God? What if we were to bring Jesus what we have?
Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church.
This episode of insideout was e-filmed and edited by Rev. David Valera. Valera serves the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church as Director of Connectional Ministries.