The United Methodist General Conference began Tuesday April 24 and will run through May 4. Two articles included in our monthly newsletter that comes out this weekend make points that are related, so I want to include them both in this post – a short reflection from our pastor on unity and a reminder from Susan H to pray.
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also and they will listen to my voice. So, there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16)
In essence, the entire world is the flock of God. Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, affirms the unity of the world. However, the world desires separations and factions. The church of Christ is the body to bring unity. The gospel, the good news, is unity overcoming separation. The avenue to unity is interaction and communication.
Christ chose death on the cross to bring about unity and forgiveness. He is truly the man for others through self-sacrifice and self-denial. He is the Good Shepherd who tends the flock with love and courage. All disciples can exemplify love and courage as we interact and communicate with others. We can remove barriers and be instruments of unity. Each disciple should examine his or her life and ask the basic question: Am I an instrument of unity?
~ Pastor John
When action is called for, pray. When inaction is called for, pray. When it is unclear if you should act or be still, pray. In other words, as the scriptures tell us, pray without ceasing.
We know this is great instruction for us because it is what the Bible tells us the disciples did after Christ’s resurrection, appearances, and ascension. When they no longer had the flesh and blood Jesus to follow, Acts 1 tells us they returned to Jerusalem, to an upper room where they had met before, and verse 14 says they “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” Not long after this came Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we will celebrate in worship on May 27. It is the Spirit that will prompt us in what we should do, or not do.
I am reminded (and reminding you) of this admonition to constantly be in prayer, by what is taking place for our United Methodist denomination at the very time when this newsletter is being published. In Tampa, Florida the worldwide General Conference is being held (April 24– May 4). The GC meets every four years to consider not only the status and condition of our ministries around the globe, but if changes need to be made to the focus and direction of our discipleship, so that we can more effectively do the work of God in this world. There are some big changes being proposed in our structure. Even if these changes are passed, we will probably not be aware of them here in our pews in Wingate for some time. It is worth going online to the GC 2012 site and eavesdropping into the proceedings, the “holy conversations”, and the worship services, which can be quite inspiring.
At the opening service of the conference, I was struck by the emphasis on prayer, not only for the actual event, but for the preparation time for the participants, and even for the selection of the delegates that happened at annual conferences last year. Within all the discussions and debates that naturally occur in the planning of a worldwide undertaking, it is obvious that prayer was not neglected throughout the process. A symbol of that attention to prayer was evidenced in the hand woven pure silk prayer mantles that were made for all the delegates of the GC, serving as a reminder that they had been bathed in prayer long before the gathering.
This offers a great example of what followers of Jesus, whether individually or collectively, should be doing for the body of Christ all the time. We begin all of our worship services at Wingate with prayer, as indeed we do for the various committees and groups when they meet. Let us not forget to be in prayer before we get to worship for all the participants (which includes everyone present!) and for the work of all our ministries, whether that takes place in a meeting or event. While we often expect our leaders to be in prayer for us, we must also remember to pray for them.
You can even be in prayer for our weekly Prayer Service, held on Sunday evenings at 5 pm. It is here that we practice surrounding all people and all actions in prayer. So if you can’t join in person, please lift up this ministry when you speak to God.
If you know nothing else to do, just pray.
~ Susan H