The summer after my junior year of college, I traveled doing support for a bike team. As they prepared for races, I helped with logistics and supplies. Bike racing is what we ate, slept, and talked all day long. The conversation inevitably turned toward Lance Armstrong. As a cyclist, his star was on the rise. He was winning both classic and stage races. He had won his first Tour De France and his first World Championship. Cyclists were studying his training, equipment, strategy, and cycling style. Many were trying to emulate him. Not to mention, the inspiration his heroic recovery from cancer to achieve more wins brought to many.
As many of you know, Lance Armstrong, seemingly the most winning U.S. cyclist of all time, has had most of his honors rescinded. His fall from grace has been steep and hard. In the simplest terms, he’s been proven to have cheated, bullied and lied in subtle and extreme ways, all for the win. He now stands in a long line of leaders. They are political, corporate, religious, and athletic who have known great success, but whose methods proved, in some cases, unconscionable or at least unethical. These days, we weekly read about another noted and successful leader’s similar fall. The news splashes of their lives remind us all that method matters as much or more than the result.
My guess is these notable people didn’t start out with bad intentions. They were gifted people with drive and goals who somewhere along the way prioritized the outcome or win at the cost of measured choices. They began to justify questionable actions in their own minds, as if they were small and doing no harm. They assumed other people/groups were doing worse than they, and at least their “win” was for the greater good. One thing led to another... and well…. There was no longer a line of integrity to cross. If you look closely, the groups/organizations of which they were part became complicit in those methods; the larger group began to reflect that lack of integrity as well.
This slippery slope is played throughout scriptures, from Adam and Eve, through David, Judas, at times Peter, and Saul. The lesson is the same. The result is as important as the process. The win is as important as the method. The journey is as important as the destination. God’s ways provide the compass for the journey.
At this point in history in the United Methodist Church and in the American social, economic and political landscapes, a Christ centered and guided method is paramount. That which is built on a shaky foundation cannot stand… at least not for long. We can be those who serve and lead in our families, businesses, churches, and communities in ways which create healthy, sturdy and long-lasting impact because God has already revealed a healthy pathway. The Scripture gives us some important practices to mindful of in our family life, community life, church life, and business life. May these be methods we regularly practice… we are after all METHODists. In the practicing of these methods (none of us will be perfect), may we grow, find blessing and, as Christ promises, find ever-more life.
1. May we not assume that the other(s) is at fault, but we are not. It’s much easier to notice the plank in another’s eye, than in our own. (Matthew 7:3). Let’s take time to reflect and pray and account for our actions with God and each other. It is very freeing!
2. Let us seek to be transparent. Let us put as much as possible in the light. (Ephesians 5:13). Should we wish others not to know the conversations we’ve had or the actions we’ve taken, we are likely heading down a wrong path. Course correction is needed.
3. Let our use of “power” reflect the cross. Bullying and backroom bartering, as is so often in the news, does not reflect the cross. Wielding power well, most looks like Jesus who laid down his life, submitted to the will of God, and served. We so like to combat force with force, and yet the most world-changing impact comes in the way of the cross. (1 Corinthians 1:18).
4. Let us use words which uplift and empower and not tear down with gossip and shaming. (In person and online). Should we have an issue, let us go directly to the leader, person or group with whom we have an issue. This is the method laid out for us in Matthew 18.
5. Finally, let us practice wisdom in the Spirit. We are told that those who are wise seek instruction and guidance, rather than assuming they have the right answers. (Proverbs 1:7, 3:7). Let us be humble enough to listen and learn from those with whom we disagree. This is often the moment the Spirit moves.
These few practices are good compass points for us as people of faith living in a variety of influential roles. Whether our influence lies with a child, a group of church members, or business/political entities. None of us will do it perfectly. We all will fall short now and again. But that is the reason for practice. Ours is not a bike race. It is the race of life and faith with a God who seeks for us to know the deepest sense of freedom and our highest human aspirations.
This week, The Immigrant Welcome Center made it possible for Old Bethel to hold an information session for neighbors who have migrated here and are seeking to get their Green Card and/or become citizens. Thanks to Terri Morris Downs and Jennifer Stringer at the center!
This week, the first Getting Ahead class graduated. They worked together to study practices and collaborate around resources which will help move their families from the instability of poverty toward more stable lives. As a community, we the east side have the ability to help support this. Thank you to Pastor Matthew for his leadership, to those who donated incentive gift cards, and to those church members who celebrated with the graduates and will seek to be encouragers/resources in the days ahead.
These two celebrations are among six new ways in the last ten months, this church has reached out to East Side neighbors that they may know the provision of God and the hope of Christ for every hunger in every heart!
Vacation Bible School is July 11-15. Volunteers, especially Crew Leaders are still needed. A list of supplies needed may be found at the Welcome Center. To sign up to serve or to ask questions, contact Nancy Bellinger (firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-375-0711).
This summer’s theme is “Cave Quest: Following Jesus the Light of the World.”
Dinner will be served 5:15-5:45pm and VBS programs will take place from 6-8:00pm.
Our Fresh Air sermon series will culminate on June 11, in an all-church prayer walk through our mission field. We’ll gather in Fellowship Hall for coffee, doughnuts and route information at 9:30am. From 10:30-11:30am we will walk in prayer together through our community.
Staff Parish Relations Committee will host a farewell reception for Pastor Matthew Phipps and his family Sunday, June 19, after the 11:00 Family Worship service. Please save the date on your calendar as we celebrate Pastor Matthew’s ministry with Old Bethel.
Serving Christ Together,