This past weekend we learned of the death of one of the true saints and leaders of our United Methodist Church and the whole Christian community. In addition to service as a bishop, Rueben is perhaps best known for his days as World Editor of the Upper Room and for his many writings in the area of spiritual formation. I first began using his prayer guidebooks in 1984 with the first one entitled “A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants,” co-written with Norm Shawchuck. That was followed by “A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, and When You Pray.” I can’t really describe how often I have used those prayer guide books and how much I have been blessed by them.
Little did I know at the time that I would become a colleague of Rueben Job in the Council of Bishops of the UMC and also in the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops. More significantly during my very first quadrennium as a bishop I had the fortune of being assigned to a Covenant Group (we bishops rotate our groups every four years) which included Rueben. What a blessing! When Rueben Job looked you in the eye and said, “I pray for you by name every day” – you knew you were blessed!
Most recently Bishop Job is known for his book “Three Simple Rules,” which brought the Wesleyan rules into a simple yet profound format: Do no harm, Do good, Stay in love with God. We have used that concept as one of our key values in the Indiana Conference, and I have personally given copies of that book to many people.
The past several years Bishop Job was less active in terms of attending meetings of the Council of Bishops or our NCJ College. But his influence has continued, and just last year he was co-editor of a book which explored various ways we might move forward around the issue of human sexuality. Not surprisingly, Rueben’s personal chapter in that book called for a “pause for prayer” – for the church to take time away from legislation and demonstrations and to earnestly pray about these difficult issues. While his call to prayer has been treated with skepticism by many, it was a thoroughly genuine offer by Bishop Job which the church would do well to accept. We have argued for over 40 years and gotten nowhere; what might happen if we prayed for at least four years?
I mourn the passing of Bishop Rueben Job, but we all knew he was ready for this last journey of his life, and so I simply praise God in this New Year for the example of one who lived – and prayed – in the Spirit of Christ.