Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Out to the edge

7/6/2018

By Bishop James Nunn

At this point in our United Methodist journey, it is imperative that we focus on basic concepts and principles that connect us in ministry. Our stated mission of the church is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

The church faces challenges, as it always has. The metaphor of the desert, or the wilderness, has been used to describe today’s challenges. Being in the desert may evoke fear; however, the desert is the place where God often appears.  

Exodus 3:1 tells us Moses had led Jethro’s flock “out to the edge of the desert.” I’ve become intrigued with the image of being out on the edge. It requires reflection and curiosity in my soul to survive there.

I have come to realize the desert is more than a metaphor. It is a place where the soul is exposed to God. Indeed, the essence of a faith story is the encounter of the exposed soul with God.  

The exposed soul opens to God when we find ourselves on the edge of the desert. When we encounter God, it is tempting to justify our positions or actions, not to examine and learn from them through study, dialogue, and analysis.  

When we are out on the edge of the desert, we must face ourselves, surrender ourselves, and allow ourselves to be formed in the image of Christ.

So, moving “out to the edge” is the first condition that needs to be met for the door to open for an encounter with God.  

Likewise, when we are in the desert, there is always something that sparks our spiritual curiosity. For Moses, it was the bush that was burning, but was not being consumed.

When he saw this bush, Moses said to himself, “Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up.”

Curiosity about spiritual matters is the second condition that needs to be met for us to be able to freshly encounter God.

The opposite of curiosity is indifference. Indifference takes root when we sink into deep despair, question the meaning of life and God, blame other people or God for circumstances that don’t feel fair. Indifference is a time of feeling helpless, powerless, and unhappy. It expresses itself in anger and blame.  

Indifference destroys the soul. Curiosity, when acted on, overcomes indifference.  

On or about July 8, the Commission of the General Conference will release the report of the Council of Bishops for the called General Conference to be held in February 2019.

This report, along with petitions submitted by people and groups across the church will be the reason for the called General Conference. The decisions of the General Conference determine the next steps for the denomination.

Whatever the outcome, I encourage us to ask ourselves, “What is now possible because of this?” Perhaps we find ourselves at the edge of the desert on the thresh hold of a fresh encounter with God.


Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

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