Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Over the last few weeks, Methodists have gathered for what we call Annual Conference. Our churches are organized geographically by Conferences, so every year we (laypersons and clergy) convene with the bishop and our episcopal leadership for worship, ordination, polity matters, and the like. Good things happen at Annual Conference.

But today I'm thinking of the early Methodists and how conference was first a verb, then a noun. Christian Conferencing, as they called it, was a means of grace - a channel we could count on for experiencing God and growing in the faith.
Conference now brings to mind an event where we gather to purchase goods (information, etc) from professionals (leadership gurus, pastors) in order to better do our work. And, who wakes up in the morning excited about spending the day in a conference room?

What might it look like to recover conferencing as a verb, as a way of life? Actually, it probably doesn't need recovering at all, as I suspect it is alive and well - tucked away in unlikely places all over the world. Bankers and lumber yard workers, mothers and roofers, CPA's and persons with mental disabilities no doubt gather quietly to listen for the sometimes-not-so-quiet voice of the Holy Spirit in the lives of one another.

When and how will Christian leaders recover conferencing as a stable and predictable means of grace? When and how will doctrine live and breathe in our dialogue and doxology? When and how will we depend on holy conversation like we depend on prayer?

Surely the prototype of all Christian Conferencing is here. And this gives me hope as we strive to gather "all in one place" - pleasantly haunted by the memory of fire laden tongues.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Attempt at a Sober Response to the Death of bin Laden

<Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563>

On the second Sunday of Easter, we learned Osama bin Laden had been killed by United States Special Forces in Pakistan. Hearing the news, I was at first dismissive - an attitude lacking sobriety and not hard to find in the various print, social media, and comedic responses to this event. The temptation to casually respond preys on our tendency to become isolated from the rest of the world – with which we do not have to deal directly. This is natural, of course, for our plates are full of work and play and bills and so forth. But the possibility and reality of death does not escape us. Navy Seals courageously risked their lives to follow a direct order – one that took the life of the world’s most wanted fugitive. U.S. Armed Forces men and women risk their lives every day to carry out direct orders pertaining to the protection of life and various societies. And civilians lose their lives.

A more sober look at the weekend’s news takes me to the Tower of Babel – where the marvel of human potential was on full display. After all, we have been created “a little lower than the angels” and are capable of great things – still wanting to make a name for ourselves. We see and experience this both in unimaginable evil and remarkable virtue. So we look with humility at judgment and justice, both our own and that of the world’s most powerful. And we grieve, and we pray, and we make room for life.

As Christ’s followers, we stand in the hope of Pentecost. For in that place we remember that the Spirit of God is at work creating the antithesis of Babel – a reality called the Church. Here the gospel of Jesus reconciles us to God and one another across language and culture. Death is overcome by Christ's life, death, and resurrection. And as we turn our attention to this mystery, confusion and “making a name for ourselves” are displaced by worship.

And this is the hope of the world.