As I write this in the early week after our Easter celebration, I do so with the echo of our amazing musicians still in my ears. I write with the birds chirping outside the church, and with the sense of newness all around. My friends, I believe we are called to be a Resurrection people!
Indeed, resurrection is in our culture and in the air. While I joked during the Easter message about images of resurrection in coming movies, I also noted that I had not personally known someone who had experienced a resurrection from death. Yet, after that message two people shared stories with me about exactly that. One is a retired firefighter who recalled two incidents where someone had clinically died, and was resuscitated through the skill and care of trained professionals.
The other story was even more personal. I was told of an experience of medical trauma that took this person so near the point of death that the experience became mystical. A bright light was seen, and a profound sense of comfort and peace – yes, even in the midst of trauma – was vivid. As a result, this person made a decision to change vocational trajectory in a fairly radical way. Life became much different, specifically as a result of this resurrection experience.
As I experience this sensation of resurrection and newness, I am mindful of the upcoming Session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference this June. Many of you already know that I have been asked by Bishop Hagiya to serve as the Conference Secretary, a leadership role that includes the privilege of knowing what is being planned for the upcoming session. I feel a sense of hope as passionate leaders in our Annual Conference seek justice after the harmful actions of the February General Conference of The United Methodist Church (GC2019). Lay and Clergy Members of our Conference are making voices heard as we seek a way forward – even working to discern if that way forward is within this denomination or separately. The denomination’s Judicial Council is meeting as I type this note to discern the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan, and the decision is expected before this edition is published.
This page in the April edition of our Beach Breeze highlighted several events that took place after GC2019, and news continues to come forward. Many in our Annual Conference – including me – signed a statement in response to the General Conference, and our Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (the body that evaluates candidates for ministry for Commissioning and Ordination) released a statement noting that, “Our practice upholds that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live up to our high standards for fitness, readiness, and effectiveness in ministry.”
Friends, you may remember the report I shared with you from one of my colleagues and friends in the midst of GC2019. As voting and politicking were taking place, she wrote: “It’s Good Friday but Easter is coming.”
Some of us have felt intense pain and anger in our lives, perhaps about GC2019 and perhaps about some other part of our lives. I don’t believe that God abandons us in those moments. I believe that we are comforted and cherished and nourished, that we may experience grace and peace even when hope seems far away. I believe that when we scatter out of fear or anger or ache or contempt, that God calls us back with love.
I imagine the sense of desolation that the Disciples must have known. I imagine what that Saturday of waiting must have felt like. But friends, Easter comes.
I don’t know what will happen to this denomination. I know it’s broken, and I suspect it’s dying. I don’t know what will happen with those in our midst who are experiencing personal tragedies and intense pain. And I have deep and hope-filled faith that God is present and active and calling in all of these places. “Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? (Isaiah 43:19a).
We are a Resurrection people! Let us live into the peaceful and hopeful possibilities of radical transformation that we experience as Resurrection people. Jesus is risen! Hallelujah!