Greg Jones, former dean of Duke Divinity School shared a challenging word with us about “God’s Great Generosity” in the first of two presentations before the conference.
Beginning with a Charlie Brown/Lucy conversation, Jones said that sometimes the world makes us feel so small that giving up seems our only option. However, when we listen to the negative voices of the world, we lose sight of what is possible. We forget that the story begins, not with humanity, but with God’s love. That active love created the world and humanity in a beautiful and generous way.
Jones continued by looking at the Book of Genesis. In the first eleven chapters, God continually says, “yes” while humanity responds, “no.” We, and the Israelites, act like 2-year olds do, saying “me,” “mine,” and “no!” We see the Israelites, just like a 2-year old, spend much time complaining about the food and about the journey.
We face similar challenges with the church’s journey. Jones described with wry humor, the “Back to Egypt” Committee, those who began grumbling and thinking that maybe it wasn’t so bad back in Egypt after all. Many of us have similar “Back to Egypt” committees in our own churches. If we are honest with ourselves, we admit that the same “Back to Egypt” committee resides in our hearts. We complain about life and forget about God’s abundant and generous future.
Easter Sunday gives us a different narrative. With the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God again tells us just the opposite of “me,” “mine,” and “no.” God says “we,” “ours,” and “yes.”
As United Methodists, we are part of that narrative. When people say “no,” we say, “Yes, we can build that hospital in Rotifunk.” We say, “Yes, we will build that Valpariso University, even as the Civil War looms close.”
Jones closed with a prayer that his friend Maggy Barankitse in Burundi prays every day: “Lord, let your miracles break forth every day! Let me not be an obstacle in any way!”