Thursday, May 12, 2016
Then the angel who had been talking with me returned and woke me, as though I had been asleep. “What do you see now?” he asked. I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl of oil on top of it. Around the bowl are seven lamps, each having seven spouts with wicks. And I see two olive trees, one on each side of the bowl.” Then I asked the angel, “What are these, my lord? What do they mean?” “Don’t you know?” the angel asked. “No, my lord,” I replied. Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’” Zechariah 4:1-7(NLT)
Zerubbabel was to build the temple. Opposition and infighting over such an endeavor were to be expected. But God gave Zechariah a vision of a golden bowl, seven lamps and two olive trees as a message of hope. The bowl, representing God’s temple, was flanked on either side by olive trees.
For me, this morning, those olive trees represent the possibilities of my Methodist brothers and sisters extending branches of peace and holy worship before God, instead of the kind of vitriol and arrogance we’ve seen in recent years.
General Conference is in day #3 (of 10) today. For my non-Methodist friends, General Conference is the legislative body of the world-wide United Methodist Church. It is something like the U.S. Congress, as the nearly 800 delegates elected around the world gather to consider how we Wesleyan Christians will connect with each other and the world, for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. The proposed agenda is 175 pages long!
As other church entities have experienced, so the United Methodist Church will (again) struggle with extremely controversial issues…mostly concerning human sexuality and what the church’s response to this ripple in God’s universe of a teapot might be.
The term “holy conferencing” is sometimes an oxymoron for Methodist gatherings. It has been so recently, with sit-ins and disruptive, antagonistic behavior.
My prayer, certainly, is that this quadrennial meeting’s tone might be somewhat better than we have seen on the presidential campaign’s stump trail, but the pre-conference rumblings have about guaranteed that the sharpening of swords and rhetoric are going to produce more media sound bites than holy agreement.
Lord, have mercy!
Perhaps the people of Wesleyan heritage have not learned the lesson Zechariah delivered so long ago, that is not by the power of swords, shouting and invective accusations that we accomplish God’s will; it is not by the might of lobby, focus groups and agenda PAC’s that we create the kingdom – it is by HIS SPIRIT that the church obeys and serves her Lord.
Whether you are a Methodist or go by another label, I invite you to pray for us as we attempt to find God’s way in the morass of cultural shift and prideful attitudes; it seems like we’re in for a long ten days.
Help spread the word: There are olive branches in those olive trees!
Pray that Methodists – and Christians everywhere – will break one off and hand it across that Golden Bowl to the other side.
Maybe we will find a fresh fire of Pentecost to light our way.