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A Sense of Perspective

One of the joys and privileges I have as a bishop is moving among an extremely wide variety of individuals and groups.  In the Council of Bishops the worldwide nature of the church is always apparent. It is heart-warming to see the active compassion and support extended by our colleague bishops from Europe, Asia, and Africa to those areas hurt by Super Storm Sandy. Those who have suffered much in their own areas are standing together in seeking to respond to Sandy.  A disaster gives us a sense of perspective. Furthermore, traveling in Central Texas I am continually struck by how diverse we are as a Conference.  Politically I find myself with people that are sold-out convinced Republicans and people who are sold-out convinced Democrats.  The United Methodist Church in Central Texas has strong representation in both camps!  (It is worth noting by way of example that Dick & Lynn Chaney as well as Hillary Clinton are United Methodists!)  As the election fades in our minds, I invite us to a sense of faith perspective.  Whether or not it is clear to us (you), God is at work in our midst. To gain a sense of perspective of how incredibly blessed we are in this country, consider the three following very different scenarios: 1.  At the recent Council of Bishops meeting one of our new bishops, Bishop Unda from the Congo preached.  He told of being thrown in jail by rebel soldiers during a civil war sweeping his country.  He was thrown in a dark cell and could tell that there were dead bodies on the floor.  It was very crowded so he asked a man sitting on a bench to move over so he could sit down.  The man did not respond so he asked again.  Again there was no response.  Gently he reached out to touch the man only to discover that he was dead.  Said Bishop Unda, "that was when I felt the hand of God on my shoulder saying 'You are not alone.'"  The next day they took him out to execute him by firing squad but the soldier's gun jammed. So the officer in charge let him go.  Bishop Unda learned later that some women from his church had been praying with some of the wives of the rebel soldiers.  God was active over and above all human actions (both those good and bad).  It gives you a sense of perspective. 2.  On election night, we (the Council of Bishops) heard a brief address from Bishop Ntambo (one of 3 bishops from the Congo).  Bishop Ntambo is also Senator Ntambo in the Congo; to my knowledge the only bishop who is not only a serving bishop but an elected official.  It was moving to hear him talking about how fortunate we (citizens of the United States) were to have peaceful elections. Bishop/Senator Ntambo recalled elections in his country where parents hid their children for fear of gunfire.  His sharing gave us a sense of perspective. 3.  A third sense of perspective for me comes from recent readings.  I have been reading a book of public addresses given by the great missionary Bishop Lesslie Newbigin.  Some of them were given in 1941, in England, during the height of Nazi invasion.  Bishop Newbigin spoke of God being active even if it was not clear to those gathered hearing his speech.  With the hindsight of history, it is clear that Bishop Newbigin was correct. As I reflect on a sense of perspective, I thank God that we are so blessed as to hold free elections.  Regardless of whether the outcome causes you to celebrate or moan, I invite the reader to have a sense of faith perspective.  Wesley's words are for us:  "The best of all is that God is with us!"