Given that local relationships will drive much of the local response, the following examples help address a couple of immediate needs faced by clergy and congregational members: church Coronavirus communication and communicating with vulnerable populations with proactive hospitality.
Simply put, “For Ignatius, the ebb and flow of consolation and desolation is the normal path of the Christian life.” There will be times of consolation – when there is a sense of noticeable, personally experienced growth or blossoming, when God’s presence seems close and the means of grace seem easy and quick at hand. There will also be times of desolation – similar to the “dark night of the soul” – when, whether from wrongdoing, or attacks of the enemy, or times of struggle or challenge, God’s presence seems distant or even simply absent, when our growth seems stalled or the habits that sustain us feel unusually heavy.
The utilitarian vision sees the body of a man or woman as an object which can be assessed like a car. Is it bright, new, shiny and full of power, or not? Is your body thin or fat; does it conform to the shapes we admire or not; is your hair the right texture and color or not; are your teeth shiny and straight or not? In the covenantal vision, the mystery and glory is that we have bodies, and those bodies are beautiful to God because they are living sacraments in the world, an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace, since all of the means of grace come through the physicality of the body.
The Body of Christ can’t be reduced to a series of zeros and ones. This is why a nursing home resident may watch sermons on their television but still ask to be wheeled down to the weekly worship service in the multipurpose room. This is why that same resident may request that their pastor bring them communion occasionally.
John Paul points out a deeper solitude which is rooted in our very being. Man stands incomplete and alone in the universe. In a sense, Adam is “incomplete” unless he discovers the deeper communion into which God calls him and us.
I think the deepest appeal of Wesleyan theology is that is heartily affirms a God who is truly good and sincerely loves all persons. God does not determine, God empowers, enables, encourages. And the message that God loves us and wants to empower us to love him back, as well as each other is a message of great hope. No one has been “passed over” or determined by God for eternal misery and damnation. To the contrary, there is hope for everyone, and the resources of grace are available to transform even those persons who may seem most hopeless in our eyes.
Discussions about marriage, divorce and issues of human sexuality are not new. What is new is our unpreparedness for the current questions being asked.
Do not think for an instant that the evil that pulls the trigger in a Bible study at a black church is different than the evil that drives ISIS recruits to kill Christians; it is the same evil. Christians died worshiping.
After all – a great deal of the New Testament was written by believers, to believers, about believers, in order to encourage believers.
Taking a towel. Jesus took something on in order to serve others.
That’s how I have chosen to approach Lent this year. Backwards. Taking on, instead of giving up.