Thursday, December 17, 2020

United Methodist Church Has Lost the Vision

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The Los Angeles Times is reporting, "According to the Bible, Jesus' birth was a crowded affair---Mary and Joseph, a menagerie of animals, and some shepherd visitors."

"But protesters?" 

It is written in Proverbs, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

Claremont United Methodist Church is raising eyebrows, but not saving many souls. 

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, often said, "You have one business on earth---to save souls." 

The Claremont Church's Christmas outreach this year is a Nativity scene that includes the Holy Family in front of a painting of masked people holding signs reading, "Black Lives Matter" and "I can't breathe"

While Joseph tends to the child in a manger, Mary is joining the protesters.

Be informed, not misled,

A clouded and misguided vision.

The Los Angeles Times says, "Against the mural backdrop, a statue of Joseph kneels beside the babe in a manger. Mary stands, her arms lifted with the protesters in the painting..."

The scene includes a number of Bible verses and other quotes.

The church says, "We affirm and join the call for justice and equity by the Black Lives Matter movement to ensure that Black Lives Matter as much as any other life."

And they have produced a theological statement which reads in part, "Our faith in Christ challenges us to stand with Mary in her call for justice for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.

Back in 2014, this same church erected a Nativity showing Mary huddled in a sleeping bag, sitting at a bus stop beside her shopping cart and holding a baby---a modern depiction of Jesus' family as homeless.

Another year, a hooded and bloody re-creation of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old shot by George Zimmerman in 2012, knelt beside a silhouette of the Virgin Mary.

Last year, the church placed each member of the Holy Family in cages, to represent families detained at the border.

The church explains to the press that COVID 19 is a real challenge to people, but "We thought that racism was really worse, the worst epidemic that maybe we had around the world."

Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, the church's senior minister, says: "We couldn't think of any other issue that we wanted to keep under the light of the Bethlehem star than the need to address racism."

The pastor says, "We don't want the need for continuing conversation of racism and white supremacy to get lost in the news cycle," while the true meaning of Christmas has been lost to these leaders---or simply ignored. 

It's stunning that a church founded by John Wesley can't think of anything more important than to shine the light of Christmas on the issue of "racism."

Wesley said, "The Bible knows nothing of solidarity religion."

A clear and guided vision.

Wesley also 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 he said, 

"Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils."

Perhaps some---not all, but some of the United Methodists have lost the "fire" of the Spirit that gave Wesley the vision to reach the world. When the fire is gone, Wesley said, the vision is gone---"you will be worn out" if your biblical vision is lost.

Clearly, Christians are taught in Scripture to help the poor, seek justice, and be charitable. In fact, Scripture says, "When you help the poor you are lending to God and He pays wonderful dividends."

However, the message of the Gospel---the message of Christmas, is not primarily about bringing reforms to our country's legal and welfare programs.

John 16:8 defines the "vision" as "convicting the world of sin."

Romans 1 reminds us that all have sinned---and all of us need a Savior. And there's only one "Savior", His Name is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

Salvation is not found in social justice.

He was born in manger, died on a cross, and rose from the dead. 

Wesley preached that message. So did Peter and John and the other disciples and Calvin and Luther and Whitefield and Edwards and Spurgeon and Finney and Billy Graham and millions of other preachers.

We do not preach about sin to create a punishment, but to define a clear and understood path to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ---and eternity in heaven.

That's the message of Christmas.

True equality is not found in "props that lead to conversation." It's found at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ.

To quote Wesley one more time--a message to the church in Claremont,  Ca., and everywhere, especially the church leadership: 

"It is no marvel that the devil does not love field preaching [evangelism]! Neither do I; I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit. But where is my zeal if I do not trample all these under foot in order to save one more soul?" 

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.