‘Come sit by me …’

Published 11:20 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

I am a United Methodist Church pastor. We have been in the news recently as our 864 elected global delegates met in St. Louis, Feb. 23-26, (see UMC.org). This denomination and our approach to Christian discipleship are like Twenty-three and Me — it’s in my DNA. I was born into this faith-family, raised up as a disciple, called to be ordained, and have served along with at least five generations of my family tree. Faith is not genetic, but how we approach being Christian runs deep in my veins. Others have immigrated across borders of denominational identity. Methodism is my home. Often ridiculed and misunderstood, I want to clarify a few things.

Since our formation in the 1700s, Methodists have had Three General Rules in our covenant for how we live: First do no harm, second do all the good you can, and third by “attending upon all the ordinances of God.” This is period language that means to drink deeply of the habits of joining in public worship and sharing The Lord’s Supper, of studying the scriptures alone and with others, fasting and prayer. By these means of grace God regularly refresh us with mercy and grace.

Keeping this methodical approach, Methodists have been led to be present beyond our walls. We have engaged in matters of radical kindness and mercy, issues of social justice, and embodied the love of Christ to people forgotten or cast aside by the Church and the world.

Other Christians have often accused our teaching as errant. I’m open to being criticized; I wonder if our critics are. After all, “errant teaching” brought you the Bible in your own language; brought you education that enables you to read it; valued each person regardless of race, gender or class. It has raised up people not scared to be thought unclean but compelled by Christ to tend to those the world has wounded and rejected.

Jesus invited me to be a part of his people. Not because I was living a right life, or had a right set of beliefs, but because he loves me. Pure and simple. As Methodists, we offer an open table where priest and prostitute, temple-servant and tax collector, across the rainbow of skin-hues or gender identity, share from the same loaf and drink from the same cup.

Whatever anyone else thinks of your life, all are welcome here, and you can come sit by me.

REV. MICHAEL KENDALL can be reached at kendallmp@aol.com.