Lent is an invitation to unburden ourselves from the times we have not lived up to our highest Christian ideals, and then to be free to fully live as Christ would have us live. The Vision of our Annual Conference challenges us to embody Christ in our churches in ways that are courageous. In ways that are loving like Jesus, acting for justice, and united in hope.
This past Sunday I had the opportunity to witness how a group of people came together to experience the shared vision in a way that was holy and exciting all at the same time. Below is a little bit of that story.
The Tongan United Methodist Table
Long before the church had sanctuaries or pulpits, she had kitchens and dinner tables. (Thanks Max Lucado for that phrase.) For the first time in the history of the Desert Southwest Conference leaders and members of our various Tongan communities of faith came together to worship with one another and to share in a time of feasting.
The Tongan community, like other churches, experienced a time when people would get upset with a pastor or someone in the fellowship and leave, only to start a new Tongan community down the street. What made this leaving one place to establish a new place so very difficult was that in the Tongan culture there are strong family connections between each worshipping community. The fracturing that occurred divided families and caused pain.
On Sunday, that time of fracturing was put in the past. In an act of grace and joy, with a commitment to the love of God, the people gathered to reconnect. They came from Las Vegas and Phoenix and Mesa. They came, united by that which was greater than anything that could divide them. They are United Methodists, who worship a God of love, justice, and peace. The gathering of this community was a powerful demonstration of what happens when faith binds people together, when we are committed to living the Values of our Vision statement. Trust-building, relationship-building, compassion, collaboration, boldness; all of these values were present at every moment that went into the planning and experiencing of the Tongan table.
As further cause for celebration, these bold United Methodist Tongan communities have made a commitment to gather together once a quarter to build on their relationships and work. What a great witness.
It is Lent, my friends. I wonder how this story of brokenness and healing might speak into your life, your church, your community? How might you be an instrument for reconciliation? It may just be time to set the table, open the doors and find ways to have the family over for dinner.