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The Freshness and Fragrance of the Gospel: Pope Francis and the UMC | Christy Thomas

The Freshness and Fragrance of the Gospel: Pope Francis and the UMC

The Freshness and Fragrance of the Gospel: Pope Francis and the UMC September 19, 2013

In an interview published today, Pope Francis said the church should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

Yes, he sounds very much like Jesus. I wonder how long he’ll last as Pope. I’d like to think a long time. But I doubt it.

And it would be nice if the leaders of The United Methodist Church could also figure this out.

Another quote from the interview:  “We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

Those words just ring in my soul, “The freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

Yes, that is what we need.

But it has nearly disappeared in the UMC as many move to the powerful position of being Judge and Jury, and the ones with the power to condemn, rather than leave that up to the Holy and Merciful God.

I saw this Dilbert strip recently and thought, “Gosh, do you suppose Scott Adams has been watching the internal workings of the UMC?

dilbert-umc-sept15-2013

We need that freshness and fragrance.  But we can’t get it because it would require a change order and we can’t get a change order because our polity has forbidden the possibility of change orders. And we can’t change the polity for that very reason.

Right now, I serve a church full of that freshness and fragrance. Life and hope springs from this group of people who have committed themselves to living out the freshness of the Gospel.  But there are times when I feel like I have to protect them from the polities and positions that are choking this historic and powerful denomination and leading to its almost inevitable death.

And, I fear for Pope Frances. Generally, anyone who says, “Let’s open up access to God and live infused with grace” gets killed. Too many lose too much power when that takes place.

I wonder sometimes if that is the unforgivable sin:  that we decide we get to be God, so we create God in our own image,  and therefore have all power because then we can say for sure, “This is the will of God!”

Pope Francis seems to be willing to be a servant in the household of the Lord, rather than the one who sits on the throne, even though the throne is his.  Again, kind of like Jesus.

We need this.

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  • d

    The full 12000 page interview is available here.

    http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview

    Your link misrepresents what the Pope is encouraging.

    The RCC is not changing position.

    The RCC is finding a better way to communicate position, doctrine and encourage emphasis on what should come first in the Christian Church.

    The heart changed and lifestyle changed follow.

  • d

    The full 12000 page interview is available here.

    http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview

    Your link misrepresents what the Pope is encouraging.

    The RCC is not changing position.

    The RCC is finding a better way to communicate position, doctrine and encourage emphasis on what should come first in the Christian Church.

    The heart changed and lifestyle changed follow.

  • Don Wiley

    I don’t think the Pope is in danger at all – I believe he is not being seen as a threat. Rather, he is a farmer who has taken the time to get off the tractor, get his hands in what he sees as the rich soil and truly wants to see new growth springing forth from the freshly turned earth. From my contacts with the RCC through my son’s school, he is beloved and seen as a very grounded man in real humility and service to all to whom he ministers – a pastoral, yet intellectual vicar of Christ. I also think it is highly irresponsible commentary to suggest Pope Francis’s being killed for his refreshing humility and candor.

    I find that most of the opposition to change within the United Methodist church comes from… clergy. You may call this finger-pointing; I call it decades of experience. Much of the opposition to change seems to stem from such kingdom issues as retirement benefits, the burdens of itinerancy, unfairness in appointments and the discovered ‘inconvenience’ of a sent ministry – long after someone took those vows. It also stems from multiple quadrennia of ill-considered attempts to force regional and cultural differences regarding acceptable sexual and social morality on all people in the church, worldwide.

    When I think of the United States homogeneity we seem intent on forcing on the worldwide church, I am reminded of the Op/Ed piece in the New York Times from a Vermonter lecturing Texans on the damage we do to the ozone by air-conditioning our homes in the summer. Of course, if we asked about the carbon footprint of the coal or gas she uses to heat her home in the winter and how much more environmentally conscious it would be of her to wear a parka in her home in the winter… well, that would be downright ugly of us, wouldn’t it?

    I believe we need to quit worrying about the stuff that is not “kingdom stuff”. Let’s get service to others, infused worship and spiritual humility front and center. Everything else will follow…

  • Don Wiley

    I don’t think the Pope is in danger at all – I believe he is not being seen as a threat. Rather, he is a farmer who has taken the time to get off the tractor, get his hands in what he sees as the rich soil and truly wants to see new growth springing forth from the freshly turned earth. From my contacts with the RCC through my son’s school, he is beloved and seen as a very grounded man in real humility and service to all to whom he ministers – a pastoral, yet intellectual vicar of Christ. I also think it is highly irresponsible commentary to suggest Pope Francis’s being killed for his refreshing humility and candor.

    I find that most of the opposition to change within the United Methodist church comes from… clergy. You may call this finger-pointing; I call it decades of experience. Much of the opposition to change seems to stem from such kingdom issues as retirement benefits, the burdens of itinerancy, unfairness in appointments and the discovered ‘inconvenience’ of a sent ministry – long after someone took those vows. It also stems from multiple quadrennia of ill-considered attempts to force regional and cultural differences regarding acceptable sexual and social morality on all people in the church, worldwide.

    When I think of the United States homogeneity we seem intent on forcing on the worldwide church, I am reminded of the Op/Ed piece in the New York Times from a Vermonter lecturing Texans on the damage we do to the ozone by air-conditioning our homes in the summer. Of course, if we asked about the carbon footprint of the coal or gas she uses to heat her home in the winter and how much more environmentally conscious it would be of her to wear a parka in her home in the winter… well, that would be downright ugly of us, wouldn’t it?

    I believe we need to quit worrying about the stuff that is not “kingdom stuff”. Let’s get service to others, infused worship and spiritual humility front and center. Everything else will follow…

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