I think we have all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We say this, and yet it simply is not true. Some of the worst damage someone can cause us emotionally and spiritually is through their words. I am sure all of us can think of an example from our own lives of when we experienced harmful words that we can still recall today. Harsh words are like stones because they can chip away at our identity, at our understanding of others, and even our understanding of God.
Last week at General Conference, our delegates experienced protesters on the street whose signs were held up by sticks and were hit with insults that stung like stones as delegates from both sides passionately shared about which plan was the best one to adopt. It was not a good day to be a United Methodist.
The damage done at General Conference is not over, and yet I will continue to be part of building up the body of Christ through staying in The United Methodist Church.
The good news for us all today is that we cannot break the church. Christ is the head of the Church, the cornerstone upon which the church hinges, so I know it will be preserved beyond all of us who are living and breathing today.
Instead of spending our time and energy placing blame on why everything happened the way it did (although it is so easy for us to do this, myself included), I think we are now called to action. This is a time to remember who we are as United Methodists and think about who we want to continue to be as future generations become disciples of Christ.
May we continue to be people who build up the church and not tear it down.
Stones have been used all throughout Christian history to build up the kingdom of God and not tear it down. In the Old Testament, Moses hit a rock with a stick and water sprang forth to provide life for the Israelites. The people of God built altars out of rocks to commemorate their experiences with God.
In the New Testament, it was a rock removed from its original place, that told us that Christ had risen. Our understanding of rocks became an embodied part of our faith as we were called to be “living stones” as be “built into a spiritual house for God” as we are built into the body of Christ, the church (1 Peter 2:5).
Our communion table, which is made from sticks and stones, continues to offer us life and not death. This is what God does for us; God takes elements that by themselves look ordinary or dead, and breathes new life into them to show us grace.
As we move forward together, I will continue to offer life. I am not ready to give up. God is always doing something new. I hope you will join me.
Prayer: Giver of life, renew us with your Holy Spirit as you make a way for us. As we find ourselves on the eve of Lent, you remind us that we have to spend time in the wilderness before we can do effective ministry. As we wander in the wilderness, guide and direct us. Save us from ourselves and each other. Remake us into the people you are calling us to be and above all else, give us the words to express your love and grace to others. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.