It was almost more than I could handle. My mother, who had always been a strong woman, who worked all of her life as a nurse, who spent so much of her time helping others, walked quietly up to the counter at the MVD and handed over her driver’s license. “I can’t see well enough to drive anymore,” she said. “I need just a picture ID.” I stood behind her in tears. To make the courageous decision to stop driving was just like my mom. She had macular degeneration and she knew one day her vision would diminish to the point that she would not be safe driving her car. She wasn’t going to wait until she was forced to hand over the license. My mother was determined it was going to be on her terms.
Mom was also determined that the loss of the ability to drive, the loss of her independence, was not going to mean that she had to stop living. She started with audiobooks. We bought a magnifying reader so she could look at magazines and read the paper. She found radio stations she loved. And together we became more intentional in doing the things that mattered to us. In all truth, life was fun, even with the major changes that happened.
A few years ago, I shared a sermon about how those unexpected difficult turns challenge how we live. I suppose like many pastors I talked about the faithfulness of God to hold on to us through those times. The real challenge of it all is that our faith is seen in the daily choices that we make. Do you find yourself knocked sideways by the problems, grow hopeless and angry? Or like my mom, are you determined to confront the challenges on your own terms, believing God is with you, and become more joyous and peace-filled in all you do?
General Conference 2019 is behind us now. The one thing that is more obvious to me now than ever before is that those of us in the Western Jurisdiction seem to have a faith that does not demand everyone believe the same way. We don’t have the attitude that it is my way or the highway. Here conservatives, centrists, and progressives have made the decision, and have the ability, to walk together in grace and love. It is, I believe, the way of Christ.
Isn’t that the reality for those who live by faith, that we must choose how our faith guides us to live daily? Decisions made by others may knock us for a loop, but they don’t define us. Our faith does. Our relationship with God does.
So, let me ask you, what are the highest ideals of the faith that guide how you act, what you say? I would challenge you to grab a piece of paper and write down the five statements that embody the highest ideals of your faith regarding how God calls you to live in relationship with others. Because it is the season of Lent, I would ask you to then take a moment to examine your life. Do you embrace those five tenants of faith when you encounter someone who believes differently from you? Do you live those five tenants of faith when circumstances are challenging?
Our Annual Conference has listed its tenants of faith. They grow from the belief that we are called to be a courageous church. And they ask us to love like Jesus, act for justice, and be united in hope. General Conference 2019 does not change our commitment to live in this way.
We are the people of the Desert Southwest Conference and our journey will always be filled with daily choices to let love, hope, and justice be known in our words, our actions, and in the decisions we make.
I am so honored to journey together with you this day. You are the beloved people of God.