105 Franklin St, South Hill, Virginia

First reflection

South Hill United Methodist Church

First reflection

As I sit in worship during the United Methodist Communicator’s Conference ahead of General Conference, I am reminded of our human tendency to fear. This is why God continually reminds God’s people to not fear. I am also reminded about the struggles the church has throughout its life.

The church has a history of difficult discussions. In many cases, the discussions got heated, feelings got hurt, and sides were drawn. Eventually, God was allowed to speak and make a difference. These important discussions happened even in the first century and are recorded in the book of Acts.

Take the account of a called special church council in Acts 15. There was a heated discussion about the nature of membership in the new church. Many existing members were promoting that the new Gentiles must be circumcised to be part of the church. Paul and Barnabas were brought forth to give testimony of the nature of the Gentile church. Peter wisely set the stage for the discussion by urging those present to be open to God’s voice. As Paul and Barnabas spoke enthusiastically about the new church, the assembly softened through the Holy Spirit, and they decided not to place undue pressures on the Gentile believers.

Prior to this, in Acts 10, Peter is shown in a vision that he needed to eat with the Gentile Cornelius, disregarding the dietary restrictions that was such an important part of his own faith identity. The church leadership was appalled and called Peter in to discuss it. They wanted an explanation as to why he disregarded long standing church rules. His answer was that it was necessary to be able to develop the relationship needed to reach a new person, at the urging of the Holy Spirit. After his account, the church council celebrated the work of God in the life of this Gentile family, realizing that God can change Gentile hearts, too.

I believe that the work of the Holy Spirit changes us. I believe that our vision is sometimes stretched to be more inclusive. Sometimes, this stretch is at the expense of the way of living that we have always held and taken comfort in. Sometimes, this expense of our own comfort is to enable hearts to change in others. Meeting others where they are, even when it is uncomfortable, seems to be recurring theme in Scripture that almost always causes ripples in the established and entrenched church leadership. These ripples directly contributed to the crucifixion of Jesus. And yes, I believe this is a direct parallel to the discussions we are holding in this time of our life in faith together. Maybe we need to be willing to let the Holy Spirit expand our understanding of what it means to be in faith together. It’s not the first time that has happened, and it most likely will not be the last.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Brian

One Response

  1. Angie Calhoun says:

    Great reflection!

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