In the Heart of the Connection
Rev. Dr. Matt Woodbery, Director of Connectional Ministries
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:13-19, NRSV
¶120. The Mission—The mission of the [United Methodist] Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world…. (Book of Discipline, 2016)
In his monograph “Good to Great in the Social Sectors,” Jim Collins challenges non-profit organizations (to include faith-based organizations and communities of faith) to find an answer of “piercing clarity” around two questions: what does the organization do that no one else does, and what does the organization do better than anyone else?
Imagine what answering these questions would mean for your church, your district, our Conference. What would it mean for your local United Methodist Church to be the only church in your local community that (insert here what that ministry would be for your community and context)? What would it mean that your church provided (insert here some particular area of ministry that was delivered with such enthusiasm, fearlessness, and relevance to a particular need of your community that everyone in your city and county would say “wow, look what God is doing at the Methodist church!”)?
I believe that the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church already has some grounds to answer those questions with some clarity. All you have to do is to look at the traditional four themes of the season of Advent. Celebrated by Christians all over the world the four weeks leading up to Christmas, the themes are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
Our church looks at a broken world—whether it be in families, neighborhoods, cities, counties, or beyond—and we say to those who suffer doubts of a future of justice or mercy; of access to clean water or health care; of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation in all human relationships, that we believe in a God who does not abandon us in the inevitable and unexpected trials of life. We’ll stand with you and invite you to stand with us as witnesses to God’s promises and faithfulness. We call that hope.
Our church looks realistically at the violence of the world and audaciously says that God’s plan for humanity looks beyond humanity’s obsession with violence in all forms and offers peace as the alternative—for we bear witness to Almighty God who used the all-vulnerable state of a newborn to join us in life and demonstrate that the forces of the powerful of this world cannot prevail against this miracle of God’s intended peace for humanity and all creation.
Our church proclaims and lives into joy—a God-created state that is beyond happiness or fleeting thrill. It is a deeper mystery; a richer condition of life that sustains us in all the certain human experiences of success, redemption, and health, as well as failure, rejection, and death.
Our church, The United Methodist Church, offers the love of God to the world even as we pray for God to perfect us in love in this life—that we may be vessels and actors of boundless grace inspired by the Christ of love. Our church loves better than anyone on the block! In our city! In our state or nation! This is our mission! This is our bold prayer! That through us, God transforms the world and realizes God’s plan from the beginning of creation; where the lion lies down with the lamb, and where there will be no more tears and no more suffering.
As we complete our Advent journey and come to the manger once again, may we draw from the perfect example of God’s love in the story of Christ entering the human story, with all the hope, peace, joy, and love that God offers in the year to come. May that knowledge be written on our hearts so that we may come to piercing clarity of our identity in Christ which will transform the world—one person, one family, one church, and one community at a time in the year to come.
Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas to come!
From the Heart of the Connection,