Friday, May 23, 2014

Undivided God

Friday, May 23, 2014
Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee;
While in essence only One, Undivided God we claim Thee;
And adoring bend the knee, While we own the mystery.
And adoring bend the knee, While we own the mystery.[1]
One of my favorite contemporary songs was written 20 years ago, and was born out of a response to the very trying times in which we live.  The song begins with the line:  These are the days of Elijah…[2]
Today Methodists are singing a new song:  These are the days of our schism…. 
Day after day for the past several months my email inbox has been flooded with new blog posts about the impending division of the United Methodist Church.  Of course it’s no secret that the Methodist brethren on the extreme left favor “full inclusion” of LGBT persons, while those on the extreme right want the status to remain “quo” (i.e., no same-sex marriage or LGBT members in leadership).
The reports and their respective outlooks are dismal, no matter which blog you read.  Talk of separation is everywhere, with imminent predictions of a church splintered and divided into two or more denominations.  
It’s so odd to sing the older song (above)…One, Undivided God we claim Thee, and at the same time blistering the Internet with hacking-up God’s bride like chopped barbeque. 
It’s odd; but not new.
Schism is as old as Paul and Barnabas dividing over whether John Mark had repented enough to be included on the next missionary journey (see Acts 15:36-40).
There are people holding to the Methodist “middle way” – the via media, pleading with the extremes to give one another their hands, in the same manner they claim their hearts “be”.
I have little voice in this debate.  But what tiny splinter I may lay on the fire of “holy warmth” comes down on the side of holding together – in prayer, because, in spite of our many opinions, we are baptized with One Spirit. 
Schism usually settles little.  Doing the (sometimes) agonizing work of reconciliation portends great benefit for the church.  But, it will take swallowing a whole lot of pride on both sides of the aisle to do this.  But that’s not only difficult, it is Christ-like, and the only right thing to do.  Without that holy gulp of unselfishness the only face we present to the world is shame!
So, I return to the “old song” and its final verse:
Spare Thy people, Lord, we pray, 
By a thousand snares surrounded:
Keep us without sin today, 
Never let us be confounded.
Lo, I put my trust in Thee; 
Never, Lord, abandon me.
Surrounded we are; and the lion roars as he wanders, seeking those whom he may devour.  Opinions are easy to have; faith is in short supply.  Can we not tarry with our Lord in this Gethsemane just an hour?  Can we not tarry together until our undivided God gives wisdom and light from above?

Today…for you

Join me in praying and fasting for our Methodist brothers and sisters?  And the Presbyterians?  And the Baptists?  And the Catholics?  And…?

[1] Ignaz Franz, German Catholic priest, 1771
[2] ©Robin Mark 1994


  1. Russell, I stand in awe! You nailed it ... you have taken my thoughts, at least a few heavy ones and put them to ink. Thank you for this devotion and for your faithfulness and friendship!

  2. Thank you, Charles; our hearts are heavy but hopeful.