Historian Barbara Tuchman paid a high compliment to Enguerrand de Coucy, a 14th century French nobleman. In speaking about his death, Tuchman describes de Councy in one unforgettable sentence: “He was a whole man in a broken time.”
Tuchman’s description of the 14th century as a “broken time” (in the book, “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century”) is so accurate when you consider the events of that century in Europe. There was the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War, the invasion of the Ottoman Turks, the peasant revolts, and the division of the Catholic Church under rival popes. In the face of this fragmentation, de Coucy found the strength to operate as a whole person.
These, also, are fractured times in which we live. The war in Iraq goes on, costing us the lives of our young and best. AIDS is an epidemic in our country and a pandemic in other parts of the world. The devaluation of the U.S. dollar, the escalating cost of oil, the sharp political divisions between blue and red states, the widening gap between rich and poor, and our increasing impatience with our brothers and sisters – all of these things clearly signal today’s brokenness.
It would be easy to throw up our hands and give up on our selves and everyone else. No one would blame us for it. We could easily slip into an “us vs. them” mode that generates fear and distrust.
However, I believe those of us who have been captured by the love of God in Jesus Christ must see ourselves as essential to bringing wholeness to the victims of brokenness and despair. As we approach Annual Conference 2008 (or what I would prefer to call “The Gathering of Holston United Methodists”), we must develop a sense of urgency to Offer Christ to this broken world.
All around us the
foundations we have taken for granted are shaking beneath our feet. But
in Christ, there is a wholeness that can anchor our feet, minds,
hearts, and yes, our very souls. In the midst of today’s chaos, I hear
the words of Jesus speaking Hope. Hear them again:
• Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
• I am more than the whole world against you.
• “Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.”And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I give judgment. Go and sin no more.”
• I am come that you may have life and that you may have it more abundantly.
• I am with you always.
These are words of Hope that people living in this broken time need to hear.
There is no need for us to retreat from the challenges. We are called to be risk-takers even in times of brokenness. I recently saw a television interview with the world’s richest man, Warren Buffett. He was asked about these tough economic times. Buffett said, “In your life you will live through at least six to seven recessions.” Notice that he said you will live through.
We need not panic, for the One who holds the future also holds our hands. God does well in all seasons. Our responsibility is to follow where God leads, even when the going looks tough and uncertain. This is the God who called a small lad to defeat a giant. This is the same God who trusted a teenage girl to carry the Savior of the world. There is always some risk, but with God’s help, the risk is covered.
There are those who are discouraged and ready to give up on the United Methodist Church. Well, hear this good news. I just heard another interview with Jim Griffith, a church-development coach. Griffith said, “United Methodists are one of the rare church bodies with a positive image. It’s just a bad idea to keep your Methodist affiliation a secret.”
In a Gallup Poll released April 15, Methodists are one of the four U.S. religious groups with strongly positive ratings. In fact, Methodists received the highest marks, with a 45 percent net positive rating from Americans. The other groups are Jews (42 percent), Baptists (35 percent), and Catholics (32 percent). Broader groups of “evangelical Christians” with 16 percent net positive and “fundamentalist Christians” with a 10 percent net positive did not fare as well, according to a survey analysis.
It is a great time to Offer Them Christ. Will you join me?