Fall is my traveling season. (Well, actually all times are traveling times for a bishop in the United Methodist Church). In the past three weeks, I’ve been to Nashville (for Rev. Karen Greenwaldt’s retirement celebration), Chicago (for a Vital Congregations conference, with a delegation from the Central Texas Conference), Austin (for a TMF – Texas Methodist Foundation – Executive Committee meeting); next week I’ll be back in Nashville for the fall meeting of the United Methodist Publishing House. I’ve had the joy of sharing in worship all over the Central Texas Conference (CTC): September 8th at Lakeside UMC (Central District), Grandview UMC (North District) on September 15th, Blooming Grove UMC on October 13th (Central District), Lifepoint UMC (North District) on October 20th; I’ll be at Thompson Chapel on the 27th of October and share in the East District Charge Conference Celebration on November 3rd at Trinity in Arlington. (Admittedly I took September 29th off to be at our son’s wedding in Massachusetts.) I am looking forward to the Clergy Time Apart retreat on November 5th and 6th as a respite prior to heading to Lake Junaluska for the fall Council of Bishops the week of November 10th. On my plane trips I confess to not being very sociable. One of my joys is settling in with my head phones, listening to music (Taize is a current favorite) and reading. As I look forward to the Clergy Day Apart, I am reading Professor Stephen Seamands’ Give Them Christ: Preaching His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Return. It is a pleasure to soak in a deep and thoughtful Christology. In the second chapter, Dr. Seamands called to mind E. Stanley Jones’ writing on the “Indian Road.” The quote from Jones comes in a chapter entitled “Preaching the Incarnation.” It struck my heart as I travel my own episcopal road. I offer a quote from this work in the hopes that it might strike heart with you, the readers of this blog. The incarnation is a central tenant (you could argue it is THE central tenant of the Christian faith. It is what this coming season of Advent and the following time of Christmastide is all about. Christmas is the incarnation! With Professor Seamands, I invite you to drink deep from the wisdom and faith of a great Christian leader.
In his missionary classic The Christ of the Indian Road, published in 1925, E. Stanley Jones eloquently portrays the powerful difference Christ’s show-and-tell, personal revelation made: He did not discourse on the sacredness of motherhood – he suckled as a babe at his mother’s breast and that scene has forever consecrated motherhood…. He did not discourse on the dignity of labor – he worked at a carpenter’s bench and his hands were hard with toil of making yokes and plows, and this forever makes the toil of the hands honorable…. He did not teach in a didactic way about the worth of children – he put his hands upon them and blessed them and setting one in their midst tersely said, “Of such is the kingdom of God.”… He did not paint in lowing colors the beauties of friendship and the need for human sympathy – he wept at the grave of a friend. He did not argue the worth of womanhood and the necessity of giving them equal rights – he treated them with infinite respect, gave to them his most sublime teaching, and when he arose from the dead he appeared first to a woman. He did not teach in the schoolroom manner the necessity of humility – he “girded himself with a towel and kneeled down and washed his disciples’ feet.” (Taken from Give Them Christ by Stephen Seamands, pg. 46).