Enoch and I watched Zootopia earlier this past week. This quote by Judy Hopps, the rabbit and main character stuck out to me in light of recent events and in life, “I thought this city would be a perfect place where everyone got along and anyone could be anything. Turns out, life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes. Which means, hey, glass half full, we all have a lot in common. And the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try. So no matter what kind of person you are, I implore you: Try. Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you.”
Change starts with you. Change starts with us. I often use the sermon illustration of each of us as drops of water that can fill up a bucket. We’re more powerful together, but we don’t lose our autonomy, our individuality, our free will to choose to BE the change. I hear the hymn in my head of “Pass it On” as I’m reminded of the words, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” I used to love when we would sing/shout the words, “to shout it from the mountaintop,” because we were shouting in church “Praise God!” We’re called to be the change and to shout it by our words and actions – individually and collectively – and all of that honor and glory goes directly to God.
We watched another movie, “A Far Off Place” with a young Reese Witherspoon circa 1993, Josh, Caleb and I had watched when we were kids. It’s the story of 2 young people and their African guide who trek across the Kalahari desert 2,000 kilometers to get away from the poachers who killed their parents. Xhabbo says that if the wind could do it, we can and Nonnie echos him. The three main characters are Nonnie, a girl who has been born and raised in Africa, Harry, a boy who is visiting from New York City on vacation and doesn’t want to be there, and Xhabbo, the African bushman who helps them on their journey. At the beginning of the movie, Nonnie wants to go with Colonel Theron, the grandfather figure, to hunt the poachers, and her dad refuses to let her go.
Nonnie Parker: Dad, wasn’t it you who told me people need to stand up for what they believe in, or nothing’s ever gonna change.
Paul Parker: People need to sit down and talk, otherwise *people* won’t change.
Nonnie Parker: I’ve seen a lot of sitting and talking around here, not much changing. If you were George Washington’s father, we’d still be British colonists.
Many of us are weary from what is happening in our world and in our church… And people talking past each other. We need to really hear each other. We need to form the relationships that it takes to be honest about our positions and have real dialogue without threat of being demonized, painted into corners, or called names. No matter what, we need to sit down and talk and be open to God’s leading and actually be the change, be the love, this world needs. Can we do that?
I was recently listening to Lauren Daigle “Oh, Lord” and it has this chorus in it.
Your strength is found
At the end of my road
Your grace it reaches to the hurting
Still through the tears and the questioning why
I will stand my ground where hope can be found
I personally am still reeling from General Conference, moving in the midst, Annual Conference, the Orlando shooting, and the many atrocities that go on in our world every day. I cling to our Wesleyan theology in times like these because it gives a framework for life. God is with us. John Wesley is said to have those words at his death. At the end of his life, summoning all his remaining strength, he cried out, “The best of all is, God is with us,” lifted his arms and raised his feeble voice again, repeating the words, “The best of all is, God is with us.” We take comfort that God is with us giving us comfort, love, direction, and all that we need in times of trouble and times of celebration. We are all in need of God’s sanctifying grace to be made further into disciples that look, speak, and act like Jesus. We should all stand our ground in hope humbly seeking God’s will. We should resist being stuck in the past, dredging up the same tired arguments. We as Christians are trained to see all things made new and resurrection dust as pollen everywhere. When Harry and Nonnie arrive at the crest of a mountain and only see more dunes, Harry looks back. Xhabbo says, “Harry must not look back. This is Harry’s future.” This is our future. God’s got this.
Philippians 3:12-16 says, “12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.”
Let us go forward, pressing towards the goal of making disciples, not for our glory, not to receive any accolades because that’s what God calls us to do – to love as God loves and bring kingdom to earth. How do we do that? Micah 6:8 says do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. In Wesleyan language that means personal piety and social holiness. We need to take time to be spiritually fed ourselves so that we can be Christ in the world. I picked this card up in Portland.
I think we all should follow the advice of Clive Staples. “There are far better things ahead than any we may leave behind.” This is our future. I’m not calling General Conference a desert, but we have to keep on swimming, as Dory says, keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’m hopeful that if we prayerfully and humbly seek the will of God than God WILL move and as it says in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” I will trust in the promise that we who are called Methodists have a future with hope and we who seek to follow Jesus with our whole heart, mind, and strength will see God’s kingdom come to Earth.
- This post was originally written for the South Carolina Delegation Meeting on Saturday, June 18th.