I’m not sure how popular Jesus would have been with church trustees or building committees. When he and his disciples were in Jerusalem, the disciples were overwhelmed by the size and majesty of the Temple. “What large stones and large buildings!” they said. Jesus replied, “The days are coming when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” That’s not what they expected to hear.
Construction on the Temple had been going on for decades, and was not completed till after Jesus’ death. It was the largest employer in the city, or for that matter, the entire region. It represented some of the highest and best hopes of the Jewish people. It was a place of reverence and worship, serving as a sign of the presence of God in the world. So at his trial, it is perhaps not surprising that one of the charges thrown at Jesus was “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” No, I don’t think the building committee would have welcomed his input.
As we move through the season of Lent, into Holy Week and on to Easter, I find myself remembering these words. We are in the midst of our own building project – one which represents some of our highest and best hopes. We are building a wonderful home for our children, for our youth, for families of all ages, shapes and sizes. We are not building with stone, but when we look up I know some have been thinking along the same lines as the disciples – “What large buildings!”
To be in the midst of such a hopeful, positive, literally “constructive” project, at the same time that our United Methodist Church seems determined to shoot itself in the foot (or worse) feels awkward, to say the least. As we establish a foundation for a generous and hopeful future, other forces are at work that would seem to threaten that project. The actions of the 2019 General Conference did not help us reach out with the word of hope so needed in our world. Despite our frustrations and our fumbling, I trust that our future is in God’s hands.
Across our country and around the world, United Methodists are working to build a community where all of God’s people are welcome. Perhaps what is coming will be a new denomination. But I don’t believe that God is all that worried about the brand name on the signs out front of our churches. More important is the mission we live out in the world around us.
The Church I want to serve welcomes people with diverse backgrounds and widely different views on almost everything. That’s the United Methodist Church I’ve known and loved since I was a child. It has been called a “big tent,” with room for people who disagree even about important things. I hope to keep it that way.
Grace and peace,