Sunday’s Scripture ~ Revelation 2:8-11.
Devotion Focus ~ Matthew 28:19-20, Matthew 22:37 and 39.
The United Methodist Church draws upon two passages of Scripture as the rational for our shared mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are united under Jesus’ Great Commission as we fulfill Jesus’ Greatest Commandment.
Matthew’s Gospel concludes with Jesus saying to the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Of greatest importance is that Jesus’ disciples then – as well as Jesus’ disciples now – teach all people to love God with all that they are – with the entirety of their minds, hearts, souls, and strengths – and to love others as they love themselves. Jesus learned this lesson of loving God and neighbor from the Levitical or Priestly Code. Later the Apostle of James, believed to be the brother of Jesus, would call this teaching The Royal Law and thereby reference Jesus as living and reigning King. Our King lived by this law, and we – the persons in his Kingdom – should likewise live by the same standard.
United Methodists believe that we appropriately and rightly live out our love of God through our love of neighbor. In doing so we join with others in seeking the fulfillment of the reign of God in the world. We also affirm that as we are about the business of loving God through our love of neighbor that we do so with greatest respect. “As we make disciples, we respect persons of all religious faiths and we defend religious freedom for all persons” (¶121 BOD 2016). God created each of us. God claims all people as God’s children and desires relationships with us. As children of God, all people and their beliefs are of value. God’s children have developed into different cultures, traditions, and beliefs; one groups is not created holier than another, though at times individuals and religious groups perpetuate this understanding.
Our Social Principles – while not church law – “are considered a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference (the official voice and governing body of The United Methodist Church) to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation” state that United Methodists “deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation” (¶Preface Social Principles and ¶162 BOD 2016). United Methodists hold fast and deeply to the inherent dignity of all persons, and so in love, we apply ourselves to the work of “recognizing and protecting the universal, indivisible, and inalienable rights” of all persons (¶162 BOD 2016).
We are the truest version of Church when we apply ourselves to the work of transforming the world by making disciples through sharing about and serving to multiply God’s great love. This work takes many visible forms. Sometimes it is writing a letter to a lawmaker. Sometimes it is visiting someone sick or recovering. Sometimes it is inviting a friend or family member to worship. Sometimes it is stopping to lend a helping hand or to prepare a meal.
Every time we do this work, we are drawing near what is holy. Every time we lean into and live out God’s love through our lives, we – the Church – help make the Kingdom of God a bit more visible…a bit more real.
Prayer: “Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty; let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us; sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.”* Amen.
*“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” The United Methodist Hymnal 519.