While “sheltering in place,” Jolynn and I have enjoyed a return to “Sunday night at the Movies.” A few weeks ago, we watched the great old action flick “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Early this week, I came across an arresting reflection on one of the crucial scenes in the movie. Maggie Ulmer, in an article entitled “Choose Wisely writes:
[In] ‘The Last Crusade,’ finds Indiana on a mission to rescue his father Henry Jones, Sr. who, while pursuing the legendary Holy Grail, falls into the hands of Nazis who seek the power of the cup of Christ for their own malevolent purposes. At the climax of the film, Jones must correctly identify the Grail from among many cups of varying shapes, sizes and ornateness, to save his father who lies mortally wounded. Drinking from the Grail is his only hope for survival. As Jones calculates his choice, the last remaining knight of the Crusades, kept alive by the power of drinking from the Grail, admonishes him to “…choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.”
So it is in our times. We find ourselves awash in passion and often devoid of judgment and wisdom. I dare to assert that all of us need to be reminded of a great biblical truth.
“4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9)
One of our pastors sagely commented recently, “Now is a time we can recalibrate. We can put our compass on truth North.” This is what our mission does for us. We are to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This is our Wildly Important Goal. This pastor went on to comment:
“Our church has an extraordinary opportunity to harness the resources, the prayers, and the witness of 170 years of faithful service to Waco and apply it to being a brand new expression of faith to our city. Imagine, the assets of a historic church with the opportunities to establish a faithful future as if it were a new church start. It occurs to me that people who are showing up at church right now are literally saying ‘this is worth risking my life for.’ I feel the weight of that responsibility, of ensuring that what we are offering is worth them risking their live to be part of. The only thing I know that is worth that is Christ, so that is what we will offer. Even in smaller numbers there may well be more spiritual strength in church than there has been in a long time. When you are forced to focus only on the absolute core essentials of the faith, you become single-minded and of one heart. History has proven that this is a recipe for revival. We should embrace this moment of cataclysmic change to shape the church God desires for the future He holds. As Wesleyans, we are perhaps most uniquely equipped for this mission. John Wesley said, ‘Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.’”
I believe this to be true for every church in the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. Last year, the Conference had 115 churches which added more members through professions of faith than they lost members to death. This is 115 out of 278 churches, or 41% (meaning 59% of churches had more deaths than professions of faith). Overall, the Conference had 1,989 professions of faith v 1,116 deaths. Here surely is a clarion call to disciples, disciplined committed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Near the close of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he reminds us, “And if a trumpet call is unrecognizable, then who will prepare for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8)
The cry “Black Lives Matter” is a call to discipleship. Christ died for all. As painful as it may be, we must remember that “white privilege is white access.” We must open access to all as committed Christ followers.
This fall (probably starting sometime in mid-September), Dr. Clifton Howard and I will be team teaching a new “Bishop’s Brown Bag study” using Latasha Morrison’s Be the Bridge. More information will be coming shortly. We hold to this truth: If the task of the church is to make disciples and we have not addressed racism, then we are not making disciples.
“Choose wisely.” The words from the action movie echo in my heart and mind. Our passion must be guided by wisdom. Together we choose to be a people of faith and reach out in love to every accessible person we may reach with the grace and love of the Lord.
In the spirit of “choosing wisely,” Jolynn and I have chosen to take some time to get reacquainted with our grandchildren and generally unplug and refresh as much as possible over the next few weeks. I will resume my blog posts upon my return later this summer.