Here we go again!
The farmers on the frozen tundra of Iowa have kicked off the parade of political primaries that will dominate the 24-hour news cycle until November. These lines, written by William Butler Yeats in the wake of WWI, capture the polarization of our time in a prophetic way.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
"The Second Coming" (1919)
Unfortunately, a significant part of the current political posturing is wrapped in supposedly Christian clothing. Some of it confirms the worst suspicions of a major percentage of the under-30 population which either rejects or ignores the Christian faith in general and the church in particular. (For a sobering look at what young adults think about Christianity, read David Kinnaman's book, "UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity ... and Why it Matters.")
Here at home, much of our attention will be focused on the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church which comes to Tampa this spring. I can assure you that we will see a lot of "passionate intensity" growing out of the divergent convictions of a global denomination as diverse as ours!
And deeper still, in profoundly personal ways, each of us face those unsettling times in our own lives when we feel as if things are falling apart around us. We find ourselves asking:
- How can I keep my balance in the midst of confusion, conflict and change?
- Where will I find a center of gravity that will provide stability in the tug and pull of a polarized culture?
- Can the central affirmations of Christian faith hold us together rather than tear us apart?
- How can our congregation be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem?
- Is there a center that can hold?
Will Your Center Hold?
Our Epiphany worship series will respond to those questions by focusing on the core values that are at the center of our life together. I often say that a part of the miracle of God's Spirit at work in this place is that by holding tightly to our mission and core values, we are able to allow a significant degree of diversity of conviction about things that are around the circumference of our life together. Our prayer is that being reminded of the things that hold us together will provide stability for our lives and will be a positive witness to the world around us.
The biblical basis for this series will be Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Paul's purpose was to call a congregation that was struggling with all kinds of tension and conflict to "be united in the same mind and the same purpose." (1 Corinthians 1:10)
I hope you will join us in reflection on the daily Scripture readings in the Daily Discipleship Journal along with my book "Journey to the Center of the Faith," which grew out of the process by which our congregation determined our core values.
For deeper Bible study, I recommend the commentaries on 1 Corinthians by Richard Hayes or N.T. Wright.
Remember Your Baptism
We begin this Sunday (at Hyde Park UMC) by returning to the waters of baptism which remind us of who we are as followers of Christ (Mark 1:9-11, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9). Once again, we will have the opportunity to reaffirm the covenant that we made or that was made in our name in our baptism.
For Your Spiritual Growth
Here are some of the resources that can enable you to keep that New Year's resolution to move more deeply into the spiritual disciplines that shape us into the likeness of Christ. These are available in our bookstore or can be ordered online.
• "The Upper Room" daily devotional guide.
• "A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God" is a practical guide to developing a daily discipline of prayer.
• "The Wesley Study Bible" provides commentary on Scripture from a Wesleyan theological perspective.
• "The Upper Room Disciplines" offers daily inspiration based on the weekly Scripture readings in the lectionary.
I look forward to a great year ahead!
Rev. Harnish is the senior pastor at Hyde Park UMC.