Every four years our society goes through the gauntlet of an election year. Not only do we elect our nation’s president, but a slew of other leaders as well. Often the makeup of boards and committees turns over on the quadrennium. To add to the spectacle, we host the summer olympics (and we used to try to pry in the Winter Olympics too). And of course, just in case it gets boring, every four years The United Methodist Church also holds its regularly scheduled world wide General Conference. It’s a year of conflict and competition that can leave us emotionally exhausted and ready to tune out the larger world.
So far in 2020 we have had the added burden of starting off the new year with only the third presidential impeachment trial in the history of the United States. Anger is everywhere, nerves are raw, and the divisions of our society are becoming increasingly endemic. What can the church offer our society in times like these? I believe the church has two main roles to play.
First, the church is the arena where the ethical and theological dimensions of the issues we face can be brought forward, discussed, and analyzed. There are ethical concerns and consequences to almost every decision we make.
For example, in the area of health care, we as the church can explore the obligations we as a society have to the well being of others. We can examine the theology of healing and offer exegetical analysis of biblical stories of healing. While the church does not have the technical expertise to offer detailed policy analysis of health care issues, it can offer theological guidance to those who do hold such expertise—doctors, health care providers, academics, business executives—as well as to voters.
The second role the church can play is to model beloved community. The church can be the role model for truth telling, respectful dialogue, and mutual love. The bonds we have as the body of Christ transcend whatever political disagreements we may have. We can be the voice that calls us all back to work together for the common good.
In the coming year I would like for us as a congregation to be thinking about how the church in general, and Trinity UMC in particular, can be a beacon to our community. How can we illumine the issues we face? How can we foster truthful dialogue where everyone has the opportunity to be heard? How can we be light in a world full of darkness?
Rev. Jane Graner