Matters of the Heart & City
April 8, 2011
In 1968, Martin went to Memphis. There was a bitter battle and strike by sanitation workers. Martin Luther King, Jr. went there because he could be no where else. With his presence, with his action, and with his words, he inspired. I write this on the day he was murdered. A call to the heart and city rings across the years.
Near the beginning of the Common Era, Jesus went to Jerusalem. There was a bitter battle between the government and the people. There was also an embarrassing faith and family struggle between the old guard religious leaders and a new generation of radical teachers. Jesus went there because he could be no where else. With his presence, with his action, and with his words, he inspired. I write this in the midst of Lent as we take our annual journey to Jerusalem with Jesus through which we contemplate the reality and meaning of his life and death. A call to the heart and to the city rings across the years.
In 2011, you and I are part of the Broad Street United Methodist Church, a congregation in the heart of the city of Columbus. Our city is in the midst of a battle between workers and government. Our nation is in the midst of a cultural war about faith, its role, and its influence. Our world is in a financial war for precious natural resources in which airstrikes and bullets have become the final solution. We are here because Jesus, Martin, and so many others have shown us that we can be no where else. This is our time. This is our call: to be present, to take action, and to inspire with our words and witness.
With this first edition of our Broad St. United Methodist Church newsletter, join me in the matters of the heart and of the city as we follow Jesus together. The promise of Lent is the power of Easter. We are on a journey to discover that for Martin, for Jesus, and yes, even for you and me, LOVE wins. Let’s get on with it. That’s what matters in the heart and in the city!
– David W. Meredith, Pastor
Para 163. IV. The economic community
We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less than other facets of the created order. Therefore, we recognize the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes with a minimum of inflation. We believe private and public economic enterprises are responsible for the social costs of doing business, such as employment and environmental pollution, and that they should be held accountable for these costs. We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. We further support efforts to revise tax structures and to eliminate governmental support programs that now benefit the wealthy at the expense of other persons.
- Property – We believe private ownership of property is a trusteeship under God, both in those societies where it is encouraged and where it is discouraged, but is limited by the overriding needs of society.
- Collective Bargaining – We support the right of all public and private employees and employers to organize for collective bargaining into unions and other groups of their own choosing.
- Work and Leisure – Every person has the right to a job at a living wage. Where the private sector cannot or does not provide jobs for all who seek and need them, it is the responsibility of government to provide for the creation of such jobs. We support social measures that ensure the physical and mental safety of workers, that provide for the equitable division of products and services, and that encourage an increasing freedom in the way individuals may use their leisure time.
- Consumption – Consumers should exercise their economic power to encourage the manufacture of goods that are necessary and beneficial to humanity while avoiding the desecration of the environment in either production or consumption.
- Poverty – In spite of general affluence in the industrialized nations, the majority of persons in the world live in poverty. In order to provide basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and other necessities, ways must be found to share more equitably the resources of the world.
- Corporate Responsibility – Corporations are responsible not only to their stockholders, but also to other stakeholders: their workers, suppliers, vendors, customers, the communities in which they do business, and for the earth, which supports them. We support the public’s right to know what impact corporations have in these various arenas, so that people can make informed choices about which corporations to support.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2008.
Copyright 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
In a recent Disney World commercial, two parents sit their children on the couch and announce that they are going to Disney World. At first the little ones are stunned, suspicious, doubtful, then cautiously optimistic until finally they accept the new reality and erupt with joy.
It’s contagious joy. But you and I know that for a successful family trip to Disney World the devil is in the details. It takes money, travel arrangements, food estimates, lodging reservations, pet care accommodations, house security, requests for vacation time, preparations of school notes, etc., etc.
The devil is in the details. AND it takes a plan to get to Disney World.
Our trip to Easter is no different. In fact, Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem, the events that led to his death on a cross, and his own resurrection from the grave did not just happen. The Devil, for Jesus, was in the details.
He had become clear on his purpose and prepared for his journey. Nevertheless, Jesus encountered the Tempter (not a little man with horns and a pitchfork and a tail). He encountered the devil of the details. He might have been heard asking himself, “How do I get there from here?” The devil is in the details and it takes work to keep from falling for the temptations – many and varied as they are.
But it is not by our own might that we face these temptations. It begins at the end. Jesus works for God not the Tempter and not the devil in the details. That’s the detail that changes everything. Therefore, we, too, can face our temptations and overcome them. Our challenge is to remember who works for whom? The details work for Jesus and keep us free of the nasty Devil.
Which brings me to the plan: if I’m going to walk more, I must take the first step. If I’m going to recover from this addiction, I need to remind myself “One day at a time.” If I’m going to pray more, I begin by setting a time, making a plan, finding someone to help hold me accountable, and simply praying. If I’m going to grow in my faith, it’s like going to Disney World. You don’t get there just by wanting it or waiting for it. Here’s how! It’s a plan called LENT! Forty days of details.
The details can serve God’s purpose in Christ and transform you, me, and the world around us. Let’s make a holy Lent of these forty days. Easter is coming and with careful planning and deliberate execution, it may arrive earlier than you expect it. Work the plan and the plan will work!
It’s Messiah Time
I slip into the cultural norm too easily. It has happened recently.
I am a musician but not a musicologist. I know that G. F. Handel’s work is called Messiah in many sources and places. I also know that music publishers and our culture usually refer to it as The Messiah. Gary Everts, our chancel choir director, has helped me to shift to Messiah. And then out slips The Messiah.
This simple yet frustrating exercise is Advent. When I try to shift from the consumption of goods and the celebration of Christmas to the compassion of God and relationship with Christ, I slip. It is difficult to swim against the flow of the commercial and cultural stream. It is especially hard to do it alone.
But we aren’t swimming alone. Again, Handel’s Messiah is instructive. By deleting ‘the’ from my understanding of the title, it opens up multiple ways in which God’s Messiah becomes flesh among us. It is not about One singular manifestation of Jesus, the Christ, but it is Christ’s on-going incarnation and enfleshment in the people of God, the community called church. This broader idea of Messiah gives us a community with whom to make this distinctive change while shifting from the dominate culture of consumptive Christmas.
Let me illustrate from Handel. The opening of the oratorio includes two tenor solos, “Comfort Ye” and “Every Valley.” Those solos have guided our first two weeks of Advent devotionals. In the third week, beginning this Friday, the author of our devotional comments on the first chorus of the oratorio based on Isaiah 40.5 which follows the solos. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Isaiah 40.5 “By introducing multiple voices at this point and repeating the phrase ‘and the glory of the Lord’ using an ascending scale, Handel amplifies and advances the message from the initial announcement of comfort and peace to the call to action and renewed hope and now finally a revelation of God’s glory.”
That’s what I’m talking about – from One to many, from Jesus, the Christ to us the body of Christ, from God made flesh in Christ to God made flesh in us. You see, God’s glory and God’s presence are tied. In the incarnation of Jesus the tangible took multiple forms: an alternative family configuration with an engaged couple of a teen mom and older dad; a vulnerable infant; in a busy place where there was no other place to be born; at the intersection of rulers, governments & their dehumanizing counting bureaucracies; in the middle of the poverty of the service industry (farm workers and hotel night clerks) in the city of Bethlehem; and under the attentive gaze of wise and watching ones (academic scholars). The glory and presence was wrapped in mundane, tangible experiences.
You see, God’s glory and God’s presence are tied. They have been, are, and always will be accompanied by tangible forms. You and I are the bodies for those forms. “This year let the day arrive when Christmas comes for everyone alive.” That’s just another way of saying, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” Messiah singing in us. Messiah living in us.
Christ will take tangible forms among us at Broad Street United Methodist Church this year: on Sunday, December 12th the Chancel Choir and orchestra will present the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah; at Bethlehem on Broad St. on Saturday, December 18th where 200 volunteers (and you can be one!) will serve 1200 families with a festive Christmas party and holiday food box; and on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year which is also the longest night, a community of those who are grieving, sad, disappointed, or anxious in the holidays will come together to encounter the living, tangible Christ even there. That’s not all. There’s also the marvel of our children telling the Christmas story in their annual Christmas play, caroling with our choir at the State Auto Nativity display, and our annual offering for the tangible expression of Christ’s compassion in United Methodist ministries throughout our city, state, nation, and world.
This year is the year of Messiah! Come worship him fully and become his tangible presence to others by spending less, giving more, and loving all. The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed!