Sunday, April 22, 2012

I am a United Methodist!

It's taken me years to be able to make this simple statement with confidence. Today, Rev. Ross preached a simple sermon about how Jesus called his first disciples, the fishermen brothers Simon (Peter) and Andrew, James and John. He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Rev. Ross pointed out that most people forget about the "follow me" and just remember that disciples of Christ are to be fishers of men (people). However, you must first follow Jesus and his example, or nothing else will work! That precedes everything else. And following Jesus is no simple matter.

I had to ask myself, have I been faithfully following Jesus, my Lord and savior? Or have I been quibbling, refusing to "join" any group, insisting on my outsider status for all this time? I've never been a joiner. I much prefer to remain unaffiliated. (There's a funny line in "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?" about that.) Yet today, somehow it sank in that the least that Jesus could ask me to do would be to make a firm commitment that I am his follower! What a mistake I've made in failing to commit my whole self to his service. To put it in a coarse but quite descriptive way, time to s*** or get off the pot!

I still have a difficult time calling myself a Christian. There's simply too much baggage around that word for me. However, I am glad to be a United Methodist and a disciple of Jesus Christ. I still greatly admire the Buddha and his teachings, but I won't use that as an excuse any longer, to give less than my absolute all in service of my faith. The faith I was raised with, that is my cultural home base.

I've always been able to see multiple sides of most issues. I can understand and empathize with a variety of viewpoints, though I still stubbornly cling to my own views as the most correct! The problem with seeing around the globe of most problems is that it makes me paralyzed, at times, unable to decide on a single course of action. Life doesn't happen in a linear fashion, so how can I make just a single decision and move forward with it, when there are always so many alternatives?

If I can't even say that I am following Jesus, it is reminiscent of Paul's passage on charity-love. "If I speak with the tongues of angels and have all wisdom, but have not love, I am but a loud gong or a clanging cymbal." Strangely, my mom quoted this passage to me. Mom, who certainly had a difficult and prickly relationship with God! But it struck me what a beautiful passage it was -- it resonated with me, and I heard it first from my mother.

If I seek to help others, but cannot say why or where my intention comes from, the gesture is strangely empty. Then I am just being a nice person, but I don't bring the power of divine compassion with my efforts.

Here's an interpretation of the miracle of the loaves and fishes that speaks so loudly to me. Jesus receives this small -- measly, even -- offering of a few loaves and fishes, far too little to feed the overwhelming crowd that surrounds him, that is so hungry and needy. This is how I feel every day, overwhelmed by all the needs of this world. How can one person make any difference at all in the midst of so much suffering?

Yet -- here is the miracle -- when small gifts are placed into the hands of Jesus, they are transformed! They can help thousands, of thousands. Small gifts. All we have to offer is small gifts, yet they are transformed when they are placed in Jesus's hands, to use as he would have us do.

Jesus, may I give all my gifts to you ... all I have, all I am, to your service.

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