Long ago, Jesus’ followers were gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem; befuddled, lost and uncertain about what was next. Then You sent a sound like a rushing wind that shook the building, and tongues of fire that danced in their midst. It was Your Holy Spirit, empowering those disciples to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel in the languages of every nation on earth. You had birthed Your Church in a burst of divine energy that formed confused individuals into the Body of Christ.
Today, we confess that those of us who follow Jesus are just as befuddled, lost and uncertain about what is next in a world of Covid-19, racism, poverty and hopelessness. Sadly, however, we have failed to acknowledge the reality of our condition. But no longer. We ask You on this Pentecost Sunday to send Your Holy Spirit just as dramatically as You did long ago. Rebirth us so that we come alive as One Body of Christ that boldly and faithfully proclaims the Good News of the Gospel through what we say and, even more importantly, what we do.
Lord, it is time – past time.
Lord, we are ready – desperately ready.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
Your heart rightly breaks over much in life. Sometimes it’s something you’re going through. At other times it involves someone you love. And then there are those times it’s because of the horrific things that happen to people you don’t know. You rightly reach out to God whenever your heart breaks, seeking healing for yourself and interceding for others. And God does. But sometimes, God does something else. God fans the flames of your broken heart into holy outrage so that you speak out, act and work to change things. Indeed, this is exactly what God wants to happen in you when you see millions of children going to bed hungry each night; observe a black man like George Floyd senselessly killed by police officers, and realize it’s part of a much larger pattern in our nation of unrelenting racism; or see the faces of those who are denied adequate medical care because they don’t have financial resources to pay. You should never shy away from holy outrage. You should welcome it. And then you need to do something about it.
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Arkansas Conference:
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
I give thanks to God for all the ways laity and clergy have continued to proclaim the Gospel, reach out to those in your congregation who are isolated, feed hungry people and help those who are struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Like you, I have noticed that Covid-19 has become a political issue in recent days. This saddens me greatly. Now is not the time for people of faith to argue about political perspectives. It is the time for us to focus on keeping people safe. Yet doing so is no simple task. On the one hand, the virus still has the capability of surging and killing thousands more. On the other hand, more than 40 million people have lost jobs and are rightly deeply concerned about the welfare of their families. Those of us who love Jesus have a wonderful opportunity to work together to responsibly address both of these tragedies.
Here is my latest guidance concerning the safe reopening of your church.
- Governor Hutchinson has indicated he is delaying the start of Phase 2 reopening because we have reached a second peak in the number of Covid-19 cases that can still go even higher. I agree with the Governor’s action. Therefore, I highly recommend delaying the beginning of ARUMC Stage 2 – which allows 50 or fewer people to gather utilizing the Governor’s May 4 safety guidance for places of worship – from the middle of June until at least June 28. I will keep you updated in the coming weeks.
- It is imperative that you treat Governor Hutchinson’s May 4 Guidance as a directive that must be followed, regardless of when your church initiates any in-person gatherings of any size. This is non-negotiable – for me and for the State of Arkansas – because unsafe in-person gatherings literally put people’s lives at risk.
- Your church must involve your Board of Trustees in any decisions about reopening any in-person gatherings. Additionally, you must inform your District Superintendent about your plans for safely reopening prior to publicizing any in-person gatherings.
We will be dealing with the impact of Covid-19 for a long time. I know you are weary and, at times, overwhelmed. Take good care of yourself. Do no harm. Treat each other with extravagant grace. And pray. Together, we will get through this.
Grace and peace,
Gary E. Mueller
Some days I’m filled with hope. Other days, I just try to take care of business. Today, my heart breaks.
My heart breaks that the Covid-19 pandemic has degenerated into a political battlefield instead of a humanitarian crisis that unites us.
My heart breaks that our nation continues to allow Black men to be murdered senselessly, sometimes by those who are called to protect and serve.
My heart breaks that over 40 million people have lost their jobs and now live in chronic fear about their family’s well-being.
My heart breaks that there are millions of people who struggle day-in and day-out with loneliness, depression and broken hearts.
My heart breaks that children around the world go to bed hungry every night and will never know any other reality.
My heart breaks that millions of people live trapped in the hellish nightmare of addiction.
My heart breaks that social media has become a repository of hate, bigotry and lies that increasingly tear apart the human soul.
My heart breaks that too many people have lost their first love – the One who loves us so much he gave his life in order that we might find ours.
Yes, my heart breaks. But I know this: God is still God, Jesus is still Lord and the Holy Spirit is still present. And that is enough for today.
Common sense proclaims that ‘seeing is believing.’ The Christian faith proclaims that believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord of all of life leads to seeing in a brand new way. It changes the way you see yourself, others and what matters most in life. It changes how you see those who are different, struggle and society has written off. And it changes the way you see the reality of sin when others claim it’s just not there and God’s presence when others can only see despair. In other words, your belief in Jesus causes you to begin to see things through his eyes. But that’s not all. Your belief in Jesus also causes you to begin to feel things through his heart, say things through his mouth and do things through his hands – because this is what happens when Christ begins to transform you from the inside-out.