There is a first time for everything, I suppose. An open forum on immigration and refugee sponsorship, held by our United Methodist Women in our Great Hall, came undone when fear-driven outsiders disrupted the conversation with hateful speech. So the Bloomington Police were called.
I heard about this as I drove home from a church meeting in Greencastle. I’ve never served a church where the police were called to break up a fight at a United Methodist Women’s meeting before. There is a first time for everything, I suppose.
In these days following Wednesday, I want to talk to you about a no-room love. First, though, it is worth saying a couple of things about the United Methodist Women, the current climate in our nation, and that no-room love.
United Methodist Women
You may not know the story of the United Methodist Women (UMW), but they began about 140 years ago among the women of the Wesleyan revival movement (that became the Methodist Church, the Evangelical Association, and the United Brethren). There were 8 women in the beginning but now there are over 800,000 members.
They began with a passion for mission and a deep love for Jesus Christ. The Women’s Foreign Missionary Society began in Boston, and what got them fired up was the lack of adequate women’s health care in India.
The UMW were —and are—a mission-driven organization. They are about providing spiritual growth opportunities for women and children. Also, they focus on issues of healthcare, justice and peace-making.
These women are world-changers! I am so proud that the women of First Methodist had the courage to sponsor the forum on immigration. Driven by a passion for justice and a commitment to serve all God’s people, the UMW live out God’s love in a world-changing way. A new generation of women is sure to respond to such a courageous, outward-focused, serving community.
They didn’t back down even though the climate in our nation is too heavy with fear.
Climate of fear
Most mornings I pick up my cell phone and check my “weather app” to see what the day looks like. Right now, in our nation, it seems like a “low front of fear” has settled in. Loud voices tell us to be very afraid: of everything and everyone.
Appropriate, reasonable, fact-based caution or fear is often a good thing. That kind of fear helps us make good decisions as we assess danger and risk. But unreasonable, racist, sexist fear can cripple an individual, a community and a nation.
When we operate out of a fearful place, we often make very bad decisions. Fear keeps us from seeing clearly and thinking clearly. Those who were disruptive at the forum seem to be so fearful of “the other” that they have lost the ability to see the glory of God’s expansive grace in Jesus Christ. They see the Galilean as a wall builder rather than the bridge builder. They can’t see Jesus welcoming the Samaritan woman at the well or reaching out to touch untouchable lepers.
In this season of our national life (and in many faith communities), we are making a decision about whether or not we will be controlled by fear: fear of others, fear of change, fear of the stranger, fear of the future.
What is the antidote to this kind of crippling, divisive fear?
The early Jesus community faced violent hostility and fear on the part of the larger societies of the ancient world. People regarded these people who believed that a crucified and risen Jewish Carpenter was the Messiah as strange. Many viewed them as a threat. Crowds gathered to watch them die in the gladiator games, and people mocked their communion meal as an exercise in cannibalism. Unfounded rumors and half-truths were used to justify violence against the early Christians. They were beaten because their young men refused to serve in the Roman army due to their commitment to pacifism.
Still, the sacred writings of this besieged community included the small letter of 1st John which insisted that there is a kind of love that casts out fear. It isn’t the kind of generalized, romantic love you’ll see in a Hollywood movie but the gracious, bold, seeking, world-changing, tomb-busting love of God in the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a love that takes on a Roman cross, allowing itself to be nailed into wood, and still triumphs. This is a love that rolls away tombstones. This is a love that has the last word.
This love chases fear away! Those who belong to Christ are not fear-driven but love possessed.
I like the way Eugene Peterson puts this in The Message: “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day…There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”
Isn’t that some statement? “Well-formed love banishes fear.”
So what about you?
Will we be a faith community or a nation controlled by fear…or will it be love?
Will you be a person who is controlled by fear or love? If you discover that fear has you in its grip, how will you do in turning to God? Are you taking time to let the love of God in Jesus have you all the way through? Friends tell me they find prayer helpful. Others tell me that worship helps keep fear at bay. I hear great things from people who have familiarized themselves with the story of Jesus in the New Testament gospels.
So the UMW put together an evening of dialogue and fear showed up. But fear won’t have us. Fear doesn’t have us on the run because the love of God has us!
Grace and peace,
All-Church Picnic Sunday, September 11
ONE COMBINED WORSHIP CELEBRATION 10 am BUSKIRK- CHUMLEY
Join us for a great day of worship and fellowship on September 11th. All year long people tell us they want to be together, and this is an opportunity to do just that!
There will be a combined worship celebration at 10 a.m. in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater (our Sanctuary can’t hold the entire congregation and so we are meeting at the theater) with both the Chancel Choir and Common Ground Band gifting us with music.
Following the service there will be a picnic outside the First Methodist building on East 4th Street (which will be closed).
We have a wonderful team of volunteers but it’s not too late to sign up!
There will be team leaders and we’ll make sure our volunteers work in shifts so everyone can enjoy the party!
Join us for this special day!
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW BUT MAY FIND INTERESTING
- Small groups are getting started. Watch for more information over the next three weeks!
- Usher and greeters celebration will be held on Sunday, August 28th at 11 a.m. in the Great Hall. Don’t miss this time of fellowship with good food and ideas about how we can work together to provide a welcoming and safe environment for all.
- First Methodist. After much research and discussion, our team of experts in communications recommended we refer to our church as First Methodist. (In the past we have been known as First, First United, First United Methodist Church, The Open Door, FUMC, and FUMCB: all of these names made it confusing for the public) While our legal name doesn’t change and we continue our strong and historic ties to the United Methodist Church, we will use the name First Methodist to welcome people and communicate with the larger community. It’s clear and simple.
- The Washington Street entrance was closed because the steps and doors are a danger to all who use them. The estimated cost to repair them is well over $100,000 so there is no “quick fix.” Thank you for your patience.
Please keep your eyes (and heart!) open to welcome the new guests who will be in worship with us as the school year brings thousands of new friends to Bloomington. Open Door yard sign to place somewhere in your front yards should be in the Atrium on Tuesday, August 23.
Join us this Sunday, in a Jesus community where all are loved and welcomed, as we continue the sermon series, “Choosing to Cheat: who wins when work and family collide?” Rev. Stacee Fischer Gehring will be looking at Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-10, 15-21 this week when we consider the sermon title of, “Choosing to Cheat:Monitoring the Heart”. Please, invite a friend to join you!