Divisiveness and prayer

Published 9:45 pm Sunday, April 9, 2023

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Recent events have been traumatic for the United Methodist Church I love and serve. Churches which have called themselves United Methodist for many years have been breaking away in a movement called disaffiliation. The disagreement primarily centers around issues concerning human sexuality. In advance of the upcoming General Conference in 2024, churches are voting to leave.

Our United Methodist Church, like our world, has become deeply divided over many subjects. A diversity once hailed as a strength for our church has become such a problem that many disillusioned members and churches will consider leaving or continue fighting to the point that our credibility as well as the beneficial and needed missions of our denomination will be severely damaged.

There must be a better answer for churches and communities than divisiveness and a “win at any cost” attitude. As Christians we should be setting the example of how to handle difficult conversations with compassion and grace but instead, we all too quickly become just like everyone else.

Jesus taught a different way: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Mat. 5:14-16) 

  • We are called to be light helping others find their way.
  • Our good deeds should shine for everyone else to see.

This week marks Holy Week remembering the events that happened to Jesus before celebrating Easter. Holy Week is an opportunity for Christians to take time for reflection and prayer. Why is this so important? Because it was important to Jesus. Jesus took 40 days to fast and pray before beginning his ministry. During that time, the devil tempted him to give up his mission: First with food, then with power and finally through Scripture. Each time, Jesus resisted.

“When the devil finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region.” (Luke 4:14) Jesus was strengthened for the mission and ministry ahead. During this Holy Week, we too can be strengthened for the difficult ministry ahead.

At a time like this, with our church and our country so divided, a willingness to stop and pray makes sense. Max Lucado wrote a simple but heartfelt prayer: “Father, you are good. I need help. Heal me and forgive me. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus‘ name, amen.”

Jesus said: “When you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production… Find a quiet secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Mat. 6:5-6)

I wrote a simple prayer to guide me: God, I love you. I need you. You have a purpose for me. Give me courage to follow. Help me to help others. Forgive me when I miss opportunities. Thank you for everything. Amen.

Simple? Yes. Easy? No way.

One pastor wrote to her congregation: “Let us each pray about our words and actions toward others and be quick to offer grace, forgiveness, and peace. We are called to practice hospitality and share the love of Jesus Christ.”

James Moore wrote: “We were never meant to bear our burdens alone. We were never meant to suffer in isolation. It is the genius of the Christian faith that it recognizes this truth. We in the church family are a community of love sharing the joys and sorrows of life together from the cradle to the grave. The anthem “No Man Is an Island” is based on John Donne’s famous words and it reminds us powerfully that we all need one another, that not one of us is an island, that none of us stand alone, that we are all brothers and sisters with God as our Father.”

We in the church family are a community of love sharing the joys and sorrows of life together from the cradle to the grave. We all need one another. My response to what is happening to the United Methodist Church? We can and we will do better with God’s help.

Rev. Larry E. Davies can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.