This past week has been a time of great celebrations. I am here at General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, and the worship services and celebrations have been powerful, inspiring, and really very Spirit-filled. I also flew home for about 28 hours last week to attend the Methodist Hospital Celebration of 100 years, and it was a great event. It was filled with music, good stories of the past, and a great witness to our connection as church and hospital. In fact, Bill Hunt, the Chair of the Board, included the “Three Simple Rules” of John Wesley (Do good, do no harm, and stay in love with God) in his talk about the mission of Methodist Hospital. We saw a powerful DVD about Methodist Hospital which will be shared at both Annual Conferences later this spring.
Such celebrations are great, because they remind us that being a follower of Jesus is really all about celebration. Jesus himself was criticized for having too much fun with his disciples, and he taught that the Kingdom of God is most like a party – a joyful celebration of discovering God’s presence and responding to it.
I wonder … how do our typical church services and meetings and ministries compare to this idea of a spiritual celebration and a party? Sometimes we North Americans have turned Christianity and church events into dull and boring times of feeling guilty or at least being very religious. We even have tended to equate being “religious” with being “serious.” Of course the Gospel has its serious and eternally significant dimensions, and some of the challenges of the Gospel should make us stop and reflect and confess. But so much of the Gospel is Good News, it is a celebration, it is a joyful discovery that to be a Christian is to be fully human.
There is difficult and serious work ahead for the General Conference, and yet taking time each day for worship and joyful celebration helps us with what we are calling “our worshipful work.” I love that phrase, worshipful work, because it reminds us that even our hardest work and most difficult decisions are to be made in a spirit of worship.
May it be so in your church, too.
from Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church