I recently read the book, Have You Faith In Christ, a book by retired bishop of the United Methodist Church, Ernest S. Lyght. Many in the FUMC Westfield community know Bishop Lyght and his family well since they were once connected with the church.
As we begin a season that moves us to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I, as you, are well aware that in order to arrive to this celebratory day, we must first journey through the ups and downs that come as a result Lenten practices:
- Self-examination and repentance;
- Prayer, fasting, and self-denial;
- Reading and meditating on scripture;
- Giving of time and resource to ministries associated with mercy and justice.
What I was prompted to share with you as a result of my reading and in light of the journey ahead resulted because of this question posed in the book: Do you believe in the doctrines of the United Methodist Church?
Not a provocative question, but consider these words of Bishop Lyght,
The United Methodist Church, needs spiritual [clergy and laity] leaders who will embody in their living the doctrine, discipline, and spirit of Methodism in order to bring vibrancy to our churches and community. In other words, do you believe enough in our distinctive United Methodist beliefs to bring vitality and energy to this local congregation called, First United Methodist Church of Westfield?
The thrust of our beliefs is not in tenets that are in line with Christian tradition but is in what makes us stand out. What makes us stand out, “can be characterized as one of ‘practical divinity; that is, the implementation of genuine Christianity in the everyday lives of believers.’” Methodism focuses on a practical theology, and considers significant, doctrine that encourages believers to become more mature disciples by “growing in the knowledge and love of God through personal and corporate disciplines of the Christian life.” It’s our understanding of grace and how this grace moves us in personal and communal ways that makes our practical theology so powerful. We are a church that puts faith and love into action.
So back to the question. Do you believe in the doctrines of the UMC? In other words, do you believe the love of God is so powerful, pervasive, and practical that this love (e.g. the grace of God) gives us the humble confidence and audacity to make a meaningful difference in everything we do and in everywhere we go for the glory of the triune God? Do you believe the grace of God moves you to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ? Does the undeserved love of God give you deep peace?
My prayer is that as a result of your spiritual practices during this Lenten journey you will come to answer these questions n the affirmative as well as move into action both within FUMC Westfield and in your comings and goings.
FUMC Westfield needs people who will let the grace of God work within them to spread the news that God’s inclusive love is real. We need spiritual leaders. We need you. As I said during our Ash Wednesday worship service, the great thing about our journey to Easter, is that we are not alone. We have the friendship of the body of Christ that exist within this community of faith. This is our belief.
You’re always invited to e-mail me at email@example.com. Also, if you haven’t attended worship in a while, please come back. There is a place for you.
Continue to Believe,
Rev. William M. Williams, III