Glimpsing Grace & Truth…Winners and Losers. “this % for; that % against”—difficult but decisive votes.  So last night, the Methodist pastor was asked by their neighbor about General Conference, “Who won?”  In today’s terms, it sounds like a good question. At least, it’s a normal question…because "winners and losers" is how we usually gauge things.  It’s how we gauge things in sports, since pretty much every sporting event has a winner and a loser (with the occasional tie). Every election has winners and losers.  Every ballot, every survey, every competition has winners and losers.  If we use such a strict definition of winning and losing, then our high school dance team’s 4th place finish last weekend in Orlando’s national competition was a loss.  And unfortunately, the way many view the last four days of General Conference, we talk in terms of winners and losers. 

I am afraid that our society spends too much time declaring winners and losers because we give too much credit to life's scoreboards. Maybe there is a different way of seeing things. There actually are sporting events where we don’t have losers; everyone wins.  Perhaps that is the reason we call those Olympics the ones that are “Special.”  Then again, if we pay attention, we notice the same thing in other events.  You can remember the 5000m Race at the last Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, don’t you? American runner Abbey D’Agostino stopped in her tracks, let go of the Olympic dream to finish ahead of others, in order to do something bigger than win.  She reached down and helped up Nicki Hamblin (New Zealand), so that arm-in-arm, they both helped each other cross the finish line.  In a similar way, I believe our dance team scored a great victory on Sunday, to not only finish fourth, but because, even after “their all” wasn’t “enough,” they “lost” with enough grace to receive the award for Sportsmanship.      

Some people today in the United Methodist Church feel like they lost. Others feel like they won. And others wonder if anyone won because everyone lost something yesterday or one of the many other times we’ve addressed complicated issues like this.  In the days ahead, we will hear more from our Bishop and leaders about moving forward. In particular I hope you’ll give a moment to Bishop McAlilly’s comments delivered after the close of General Conference, at https://bishopbillmcalilly.com/2019/02/26/address-from-2019-general-conference/

I also encourage you to watch our Bishop’s message that will be live-streamed on March 10th.  Until then, my hope, my prayer is that we as Jesus’ followers in the United Methodist Church will exhibit enough grace to those beside us, so that the world catches a glimpse of Jesus in us.  And that just like athletes who practice for difficult events, we who have “practiced" following Jesus all these years, will be proud that God invites us to join his work, will be grateful for all who serve Christ alongside us and will take our vision off the scoreboards that project only winners and losers.  May we be those who love and welcome all. And may we be those who stop in our tracks, reach out to help up those knocked down, so that, just like Paul, we may go arm-in-arm to not only finish the race but keep the faith. 

Sincerely glad you are part of what God is doing among us in the Church: Ed, Will and the First UMC Family

p.s., and may we unite our energies to help some of the world’s most vulnerable, as Jesus called and invites us to join. 

MARCH COMMUNION OFFERING – WORLD HUNGER PROJECT 

Nearly 850 million people worldwide suffer from hunger and/or malnutrition on a daily basis. 80% of these people are farmers who own 5 acres or less or farm workers who do not own the land they are working. Small farmers are struggling to provide for their families in the face of land degradation, lack of access to water and seeds, land grabbing, and climate change. 

The World Hunger Project has two main objectives. The first of these is to provide funding, accompaniment and technical support to organizations empowering families to sustainably improve their food and nutrition security. The second is to develop resources and educational materials to educate and raise awareness within the faith-based community about the issues faced by people who are poor and lack sufficient food and call people to action to mobilize to end the systemic injustices of hunger and poverty in the world. 

Your FUMC Missions Team