I do not know about you, but it seems that we are exhausted by many false narratives, racist commentary, a segmented modeling of the Gospel, and the expressed opinions of the privileged; and these are challenges I confront daily within the United Methodist Churches in Indiana. As a Conference Superintendent and faithful follower of Jesus Christ, it is often difficult not to divorce my thinking from the actions of church people that continually consume my time and attention. I know that people are growing restless with the global pandemic, and ready to return to “normal.” I know there many who would prefer that the statement Black Lives Matter is never spoken of or mentioned publicly. I realize that we are inundated with many means of getting information and very little time to process the truth of it all, so we tend to continue to feed this cycle through our hate-filled social media posts, passive-aggressive anonymous letters, and even in our unrealistic expectations of leaders during this unprecedented crisis. However, these things do not and should not continue to be our reality as The Church!
I find the simple verse from Philippians 4:8 to be very liberating. It reads, “Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]”- Philippians 4:8 (AMP). I believe we can be agents in our own liberation, and through the pen of Paul, he encourages the readers to reframe our thought lives as those who profess Jesus as Lord. Of course, if we were to look at the entirety of Philippians 4, we would be advised that Paul’s words are guiding us to more faithful living as disciples of Jesus Christ.
I take this scripture to heart, so rather than focusing my thoughts on those things that tempt to consume my energy, I begin thinking on those things that are good. I think about how during this 2020 Charge Conference Season (yes, it has started), we are receiving thoughtful videos from congregations that are sharing how they are being missional during a global pandemic. I think about and rejoice the commitment and engagement of the many (averaging 80+ every session) who continue to be on the districtwide Learning Journey, leaning into the discussion and doing the hard work of listening to and leading forward, as we strive to become Antiracist; individually and collectively. I think about those who have come into relationship with Christ because we were unafraid to share how this Jesus has changed and is transforming our lives. I begin to Praise God for the extension of grace upon grace every day, and the promise to be with us; even when we must do the hard things.
So yes, I can get my mind caught within the cycle of doom and the circle of lies, but I choose to lend my thoughts to that which will fuel my faith and not my fears. I choose to focus those things that will contribute to my joy and not my hopelessness. It does not mean the things around me are not happening, I just choose to take a different look and overlay it with Good News! As it is said, “What you give power to, has power over you!” You too have a choice as to what are you giving power to in this life…I hope you will choose the WHATSOEVER!
So, let us pray: “Gracious God, we humble ourselves to the Presence of your Spirit, so that we would be awaken to the truth of Your Love and the faithfulness of your character. Our desire is that You would shape our hearts so that we will love what is decent and turn from what is disgraceful; that we will live and act and speak unpretentiously and turn from injustice; that we will pursue peace and celebrate all that is lovely; Holy God, our hope is that you would help us to recognize excellence and to fall in love with it and labor in your grace and power so that the whole of our lives reflect it. O Lord help us to think on these things. Help us to then practice these things daily. And may it all be for the glory and praise of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Abundant Grace and Many Blessings…
Dr. Aleze M. Fulbright
Conference Superintendent serving Central and West Districts