This is a continuation of this post.
When I say payback I'm not talking about revenge. Duh, right? I must have some kind of grudge against the United Methodist Church and I plan to air my grievances here, yeah? What a great irony it would be to commit my life to an institution that I wanted to destroy or that I thought was rotten or beyond hope. One caveat to this, however - the Church must die and be resurrected just as Christ lived, died, and was resurrected. In that sense, yes, I am trying to destroy the church for greater life.
The payback that I speak of is not indebtedness. That is where I've been given something with the expectation that I will return the favor. Indebtedness is the relationship I have with my mortgage company or government. If I were simply indebted to the UMC there would be plenty of room for me to successfully pay back whatever I owed and be done with it.
Obviously none of that is the case or I would be blogging about how to undermine the UMC or how to finish out my commitment to the UMC.
When I say payback I'm speaking about gratitude. What am I thankful for from the UMC? A few things.
- I've been accepted. Even when I went through my awesome skater-punk phase I was welcomed at my home church. Sure, I got a little ribbing for the goatee I sported, but that just told me they cared about me. Since then I have found churches who have accepted me as an imperfect pastor. Some have higher expectations than others but I'll bring that up below. Point is, I was/am accepted. I know that when everything is said and done, I can find a polity in the UMC that will accept me and a local congregation that will too.
- I've been nurtured. I've been in the UMC since I was 10. If I had never gone into the ministry there still would have been laity and clergy who wanted me to grow into the man of God I'm called to be. For someone who never did confirmation but grew up in the church, I'd say I've been taken care of.
- I've been challenged. There are monumental problems before us. Structural issues weigh heavily but that isn't where I find my hardest challenge. For me, the UMC has challenged me to broaden my view of God's love for enemy, world, and self. The everyday relationships I'm called to be in are the hardest part. :) Usually...
- I've been held accountable. Believe it or not they UMC has both accepted me but also held me accountable for my actions. There will be consequences when I don't uphold a Christ-like ministry. I also understand that if I don't nurture my relationship with Christ I risk becoming lukewarm. We can't have that.
- I'll have a place here. I went to India last October and while there we went to a United Methodist Church in New Delhi. The fact this exists and that they had United Methodist liturgy, hymns, and prayers blew my mind. I could live in India and still find a church I recognize.
- I'm supported. (financially and otherwise) - Money may not be everything but it is a necessary resource. The Church (through my Conference and scholarships through my seminary) helped me pay for my schooling and now my livelihood. The other support is above.
- My friends will have a place here. I'm confident that whoever I may befriend in life - and I do mean whoever - a local United Methodist Church will welcome them. (I'm looking at you East Lake United Methodist Church) :)
These are all reasons I feel Ordination in the United Methodist Church makes sense for me... because of payback. I'd love to think you (or someone you know) is so thankful for what the Church has done (or can do) that Ordination seems like a possibility. Let me know if I can help. I owe Jesus that much.
* - Don't give me grief about how these things aren't always true. "Always" is like "unconditional" and truly the Church's love has been anything but. But even when there are little missteps the broader picture stays consistent (now < always). That is somewhere in the Bible, I know. I know that many people in our world have negative connotations with organized religion. I'm not oblivious to the fact that the UMC has its faults. Every institution with human beings is naturally messy and imperfect. But for me, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I must apologize to those who have not experienced the UMC as wonderfully as I have. And to those people, I can only say give me a chance to build a church that can reconcile and redeem. I'm sorry we let you down and I hope to look more like Jesus for you in the future.