Joyful disciples

Bishop Gary E. Mueller

Bishop Gary E. Mueller

I’ve been thinking about all the pain, brokenness and heartbreak that occur every hour of every day in the world. Things like a terminal illness that affects someone you love, the recent attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando or the 200,000 children in Arkansas who will go to bed hungry tonight. Much of it is so contrary to God’s will that I am feeling more compelled to call it what it really is: sin.

As if all of this weren’t enough, I often see almost as much bad news in the church. I’m not just talking about the decline we discuss in so many different ways. I’m talking about our own unwillingness to go all in, a lack of passion, a tendency to spend most of our time and energy on things that don’t matter all that much while failing to focus on the fact that Jesus Christ is the vine and we are his branches in the world. It’s so sad and, sometimes, I wonder whether it may actually be sinful.

The good news, however, is the Good News of the One who brings saving, healing, forgiving, transforming and freeing grace into the midst of the muck and messiness of the world, the church and our own lives. The One who promises that one day God’s will is going to be as real on earth as it already is in heaven. The One who loves unconditionally, transformationally and invitationally.

While I thank God for this Good News, I’ve also got to admit that I often get so caught up in the bad news that I act as if it is more powerful than the Good News. And that haunts me deeply. The result is that I have reached an unexpected conclusion: One of the most important tasks for those of us who are Jesus’ disciples is to let joyful discipleship flow from spiritual revival.

But this joy doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice that arises out of our desire to be so fully embraced by God’s love that we see ourselves, our lives and our discipleship in a brand new way.

So I hope—and am praying—that you will join me in boldly affirming, “I’m no longer going to let anything rob me of my joy. Not what’s going on in the world. Not what’s going on in the United Methodist Church. And not what’s going on in my own life.”

Sure, real life will happen, tragedies will occur and we will mess up. But I believe God’s love in Jesus that we experience through the power of the Holy Spirit is so powerful it gives us the joy that flows directly from God’s heart to ours.

And something is going to happen when we make it about the joy. You will change. I will change. The church will change. And all of this will be so compelling that others will want what God so graciously has shared with us.

Yay, God!

Gary E. Mueller