Lent, Call to Action, and the Truth

I just got back from a Connectional Table meeting and felt like I was subjected to subtle and not-so-subtle encouragement to support the IOT/CT legislation carte blanche. Well I have hardly ever been accused of checking my brain at the door. I did get up and profess that I would rather be a part of the coalition of the willing than a resister but feel the responsibility to ask pertinent questions about the IOT/CT plan that must be answered. I still have those questions about putting so much power and assets in the hands of a 15-member Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry and a 45-member group that meets once a year. The questions are huge. I feel compelled to keep asking questions and pray for truth. I know that everybody in this debate has their own perspective, but I hope we will all ponder the common issues of UM indentity, theology, and inclusivity. All of us have to avoid spin which to me is negative and often just half-truths. I read the Wisconsin Annual Conference’s statement on the Call to Action and really resonate with it. Here’s the link to some good truth-telling and questions:

http://www.umc.org/atf/cf/%7Bdb6a45e4-c446-4248-82c8-e131b6424741%7D/WISCONSIN%20DELEGATION%20STATEMENT.PDF?tr=y&auid=10420414

Speaking of truth, the great novelist Flannery O’Connor, known for surprise endings and plot twists that can turn a reader upside down, wrote these matter-of-fact words, “You shall know and do the truth . . . and the truth will make you odd.”  It may cause us to feel odd in today’s world when we live truthfully. I know that I don’t have a corner on the truth market. I also know how odd I can be, but I’m trying to be ethical. Ethics as defined by the dictionary is “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.” I’m glad the definition started with the word, “discipline.”  Doing the right thing, believing the truth and living truthfully, takes extraordinary discipline.

For example, 20,000 middle-and high-schoolers were surveyed by the Josephson Institute of Ethics–a non-profit organization in Marina del Rey, California, devoted to character education.  Ninety-two percent of the teenagers admitted having lied to their parents in the previous year, and 73 percent characterized themselves as “serial liars,” meaning they told lies weekly.  Despite these admissions, 91 percent of all respondents said they were “satisfied with my own ethics and character.” That’s a scary thing–when we knowingly misrepresent the truth and we are “satisfied with my own ethics and character.” Living truthfully may make you odd in today’s world.

Lenten season dares us to “fess up” to our shortcomings and that takes truth telling. Most of us would rather talk about what’s wrong with everybody else but ourselves. We have the Cleopatra Syndrome, so called because she was the Queen of DENIAL. Jesus came to expose the denying lies of those who felt smug in their self-righteousness and to bring relief to those who felt imprisoned by their unrighteousness. He told it like it was about both groups. He wanted both groups to come clean, tell the truth and experience the freedom that can only come from having no secrets from God.

With the woman at the well Jesus dodged her non-answers and went straight to the jugular about her many marriages and live-in lover. It was her honesty that finally opened her eyes to both Jesus and her own salvation. But she had to tell the truth to get there! Honesty is the best policy, especially honesty with God! He already knows what we’re thinking anyway, so why don’t we turn those ugly worrisome thoughts into prayers?

Only God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, but out of love God gives us tremendous freedom and latitude. We can choose or not choose to turn to God in repentance and ask for help in our daily predicaments. If we don’t turn to God aren’t we neglecting the best opportunity for real help when the going gets rough? Next time you find yourself in a situation and are already planning your exit strategy with not-so-truthful ease, turn to God instead. Jesus is more than ready and able to help you. All Jesus asks is for us to be honest. Without honesty, we’re stuck in a downward spiral toward disaster. I pray that as we prepare for GC 2012 we will speak the truth in love!

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5 thoughts on “Lent, Call to Action, and the Truth

  1. The United Methodist Church, SC Conference.

    The failing of our small churches. According to the conference an ordained minister will now cost approximately $60K, 40k of salary
    20k worth of benefits. Plus we pay apportionments. I am told it is a calling but it seems to be a job.

    My church! My charge! Has a problem. Students, Local part time and retired pastors do not do us any favors. With my experience, they either don’t know enough to get started or don’t know how to stay out of trouble. How do we get our people involved. I don’t attend a mega church, my church with approximately 78 members, ( 25 I have never met) pays 100% apportionments and has for many years, what do we get in return? We raised and donated $ 10,000.00 to UMCOR for Katrina with out as much as thank you from any one. We have raised over $ 20,000.00 for local individuals to assist them with medical bills and we received much in return. Our Local mega UMC, Trinity in Blythewood did not pay 100% of their apportionments until DS Tim McClendon showed up. How many more are out there.

    What is the conference going to do. I suppose as it was explained to me, 12 years ago someone screwed up and ran out of money to pay the retirees their pension, and their medical, and disability, Hence direct billing. I make 50K per year as a paramedic. I have to pay my insurance, I have to pay my Retirement and at the end of the year I make 31K.

    I don’t see a Membership problem as much as I see a leadership problem.

    I am part of the Leadership of my church and charge. I feel like the blind leading the blind. I am tired.

    Rhett.

      1. Just saw it over the weekend. Some interesting stuff there once you figure out how to work your way around their website. We had 3 members of the Holston delegation at our district pastor’s meeting today with some good discussion. I’m anticipating some lively discussion once ya’ll get to Tampa. Praying for all of you while I just try to focus on giving folks Jesus.

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