The show must go on
"I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back." —Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message)
By Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr.
Moviegoers today pay $8, $9, even $10 for admission, yet may get only 50 cents worth of entertainment. Hollywood has produced so many box-office failures that you need a scorecard to find out if a movie is worth your time and money. The potential audience asks: Is it thumbs up or thumbs down? Does it rate three, four, or five stars?
These are important questions to ask before you buy the ticket. Otherwise, be prepared to exit the theater with a sinking feeling of being cheated. I know firsthand that it’s no fun going to an expensive movie where the popcorn is the highlight of the experience.
Not so when vaudeville reigned. In those days, you got more than your money’s worth of entertainment. On stage were some of the world’s best performers, presenting acts from slapstick comedy to pantomimes and juggling.
Many of the enduring great names of theater have their roots in vaudeville. Also originating from that era is one of my favorite quotations. Multitudes of people are familiar with this quote; it has been attributed to the late Harry Golden.
Honoring the spirit that led many a fearful, trembling performer to go on stage anyway, to face uncertain fate before an unfamiliar audience, Golden said, "I do not applaud actors alone. I applaud people. All people. Life itself. Everybody goes out on the ‘stage’ with anxiety, fear, and sorrow in their heart, but for everybody, the show must go on!"
How right he was! Any seasoned veteran of life’s campaigns knows we must perform each day despite our anxieties, trepidations, difficulties, or obstacles. Ultimately, for everyone, the show must go on.
This quote is prominent in my thoughts because something wonderful just happened in my life. On July 18, at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church, meeting in Dallas, Texas, I was reassigned to a second four-year term as bishop of the Oklahoma Area. That is cause for celebration for me! I am tempted to linger in the joy of that moment, but I also realize I must not pause long to look back and reflect on everything that has taken place these past four years.
Surely, with God’s guidance, I have faced challenges and opportunities during that time. Yes, I have even experienced a small measure of success. However, I know I cannot dwell on what is past. I must turn my attention toward the future, the next four years. I know that the show must go on!
This is precisely what the apostle Paul said to the Philippian church. He wanted them to know that although God had blessed him, he did not view himself in charge and did not believe he had accomplished all he set out to do.
"But, I am well on my way," he wrote.
Paul continued by saying, "I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus." And he concluded, "I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back!"
As I write this, the words of the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee are still fresh in my mind: "Bishop Hayes, you and Dee will be returning to the Oklahoma Area for another four years."
Like Paul, I, too, am off and running to embrace the next four years. I know there is much to do and little time to accomplish all I envision.
Ministry near and far
Significant ministry opportunities await us! Our presence is needed now in mission throughout Oklahoma and around the world! People who reside on the fringes and margins of society need to hear the name of Jesus! Ministers in Bolivia need assistance, and orphaned children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in South Africa need shelter. The homeless must find a resting place, and the poor must be fed. Students entering formal ministry are ready to be educated in our own seminary. The task looms large before us of eliminating debt for seminary graduates.
The new Strategic Plan is in place to sharpen our focus near and far on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Oklahoma, God is beckoning us onward, and I ask you to join me as we go into the next phase of our journey together.
Unlike the actors of Harry Golden’s day, who stepped out with fear and trembling into an uncertain fate, I move forward into the unknown of the next four years with the anticipation that we will discover God is working with us, side by side. I also move forward with joy and excitement, knowing God has chosen us for such a time as this to proclaim the reign of the Lord!
The promise I make as I roll up my sleeves for the task ahead: I’m not turning back! I’m not turning back!
God bless you all!