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GEN-X RISING: A wish list for 2008 Andrew C. Thompson, Jan 8, 2008
Andrew C. Thompson
By Andrew C. Thompson UMR Columnist
It’s hard to believe that another calendar year has come and gone. But 2008 is here, and with its arrival, people everywhere have been polishing up their New Year’s resolutions.
Instead of resolutions, I decided to draw up a few wishes I have for our church in the new year. So without further ado, in 2008 I wish:
* For the young in our church to hear the voice of God. The decreasing numbers of both young laity and young clergy in the United Methodist Church bring to mind 1 Samuel 3:1—“In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions” (TNIV).
This passage prefaces the call of young Samuel, who would serve as God’s prophet. God is surely calling our young today; it may only be that we are not helping them to have open ears. This is a complex issue, but it is certainly one to which we should give great energy and attention.
* For Eucharistic renewal in all our local churches. The weekly celebration of Holy Communion in all of our churches is a reachable goal. Centering our main Sunday worship services around the Lord’s Supper keeps our focus where it should be, on the gift of salvation given to us by Jesus. And it doesn’t even have to shortchange preaching!
Holy Communion is not a “cure all” for fixing every challenge the church faces, but it is the chief means of grace available to us. And we should not underestimate the benefits that regular, weekly participation could give to us.
Methodists have traveled a long, circuitous route since Wesley preached on “The Duty of Constant Communion,” but at present there may be a growing desire to move toward what he originally intended for us.
* For General Conference to be clothed with prayer. There has been a lot of buzz about the desire for this year’s General Conference to be less cantankerous, less divided, and less crassly political. That may be a tall order, but if we want the church to engage in holy conversation, it is a must.
We have to recognize that General Conference can be and should be a true means of grace. Friends of mine who have attended in the past have always pointed to instances where God’s grace managed to get through in a transforming way.
The seemingly endless debates around human sexuality often seem to dominate all other matters (at least as reported in the media, if not in the delegates’ own experiences). Those debates will undoubtedly resurface due to several developments over the last quadrennium.
There will be other crucially important issues debated as well, from the future of the United Methodist Church as a global church (and how that should be represented) to the structure of ordination candidacy.
For all these matters to be discussed in a way that makes room for God’s presence, the Conference itself must be clothed in prayer. Only then will we be able to see past the politics and into holy fellowship with one another.
* For we United Methodists—as a church—to truly unite holiness and compassion. The tired stereotype is that conservative Christians care a lot about holiness but neglect social justice ministries, while liberal Christians get excited about social justice but neglect holiness. For our early Methodist forebears, this division would make no sense.
Wesley always talked about works of piety in conjunction with works of mercy. They were never in opposition to one another. It is important for us to keep these in perspective by attending to their place in our salvation: through both our practices of holiness and our acts of compassion, we are remade in Christ’s image.
This is sanctification! And if we neglect one or the other, we are shortchanging the gospel. Besides helping us to overcome the conservative/liberal division in the church, realizing the inseparable nature of the two also gives us a fuller understanding of salvation.
That’s not too much to ask of a wish list, is it? May God bless our church in this new year.