Fifty-nine pastors of prominent United Methodist churches from across the United States have written an open letter to the denomination’s bishops in regard to ministerial colleagues who have pledged to perform same-sex weddings, despite the church’s prohibition against such ceremonies.
The Revs. Tom Harrison, Charles Kyker, Ed Robb III, Ken Werlein, and Steve Wood spearheaded the communication to the United Methodist bishops. An additional 54 pastors joined the effort.
A website (www.faithfulumc.com) has been launched in order to give clergy and laity across the United Methodist Church the opportunity to also sign the letter.
As was published in the last issue of Good News, more than 900 UM clergy have openly pledged to perform same-sex unions, contrary to the standards of the United Methodist Church.
What follows is the text of their correspondence.
The names of the churches of the signers are for identification purposes only.
We are writing out of genuine love and deep concern for our church. We believe that the unity and the future of The United Methodist Church are in jeopardy.
According to The United Methodist Reporter “more than 900 UM clergy, in conferences across the country (The United States), have pledged to officiate at same-sex weddings and other services celebrating homosexual unions.” In the same article, the Rev. Bruce Robbins (identified as the originator of this movement) “acknowledged he had been discouraged by failures to effect change in the church’s positions on homosexuality either legislatively or through Judicial Council rulings, and sought a different approach.”
For forty years we United Methodists have listened to each other, respected each other and have engaged in holy conferencing on the important issues of same-sex marriage and the practice of homosexuality. And every four years, our discussions have culminated in General Conference determining the church’s position. Though the discussions and resultant protests have not always been pleasant, there has been the assurance that we would respect the decisions of General Conference and live by the covenant that holds us together. The unity of The United Methodist Church has been preserved as a result of this commitment to holy conferencing and to respecting the decisions of General Conference.
If we take them at their word, at least 900 of those who want to change the Book of Discipline regarding same-sex marriage and the practice of homosexuality are no longer willing to honor our Wesleyan way of holy conferencing and respectful dialog. As the article cited above states, the Rev. Robbins and others are encouraging and committed to massive acts of ecclesiastical disobedience, hoping that The United Methodist Church will not possess the resources or the resolve to enforce the church’s position. We are grieved that, evidently, the process of holy conferencing and the mutual respect necessary for good-faith conversations are no longer valued by so many of our colleagues. Their promised actions not only threaten the integrity of our church’s connectional relationships, they undermine any hope of future dialog and prayerfully working out a solution to our church’s seemingly intractable divide.
We do not know how many, if any, marriages or “holy unions” of same-sex couples will be performed by UM clergy in the near future. But we do know the destructive effects that will result in our local churches and throughout the denomination if such services are performed by UM pastors. Even if such acts of disobedience are dealt with appropriately, if they occur in large numbers, the members of our church will simply not understand how such actions are possible. And they will wonder who is allowing them to occur. If pastors performing such services are not dealt with quickly and with genuine consequences for their disobedience, our members will believe that the leadership of the church has failed them. As the Call to Action Committee reported, many of the persons in our pews do not have a high degree of trust in our denominational leaders. How the threatened disobedience is handled will either restore their trust or further weaken it.
What we are sure of is that our members will not support an institution that will not enforce its covenant. Many of us struggle every year to defend to our members why we should pay apportionments that support boards such as the General Board of Church and Society that regularly lobbies and writes legislation to change the church’s position regarding the practice of homosexuality. If we ever come to the point that we are having to explain why the church is not holding those who break the Discipline accountable in a real way, we may no longer be able to convince our members of the wisdom of contributing to the general ministries of a church that seems bent on its own destruction. Telling them that we are required to do so by the Discipline and by our being a United Methodist congregation will not have much moral force if others are allowed to break the Discipline and be unfaithful to our United Methodist positions without meaningful consequences. Some of our members will demand to know why we and our congregations should be required to live by the Discipline, if others are not so required.
Honestly, we fear that many of our people will decide that if The United Methodist Church will not live by the covenant that holds us together, it will be time for them to find another church. The positive ministries of transformational discipleship that we are attempting to build are threatened by this group of defiant clergy. This is true even if the threatened disobedience occurs in a different annual conference from our own. What happens in one part of the church affects the perception of the church in all geographical areas.
We are asking you as a Bishop of The United Methodist Church and we are asking the entire Council of Bishops to issue a statement before the threatened disobedience occurs. Please take to heart how much damage will be done to our congregations and to the entire church if Dr. Robbins and others disregard our time-honored process of holy conferencing and respecting the decisions of General Conference. Disobedience to the Discipline is the antithesis to holy conferencing and to our United Methodist way. Please lead and issue a statement proactively that the Council of Bishops, regardless of their individual beliefs, will enforce the Discipline, will seek appropriate discipline for those who break our covenant, and that the unity and the integrity of the church will be maintained. Such a statement will hearten our members and give us a foundation for calming their concerns and persuading them to remain faithful members of The United Methodist Church.
We sincerely believe that the future of The United Methodist Church is at stake. What Dr. Robbins and others are proposing will lead to anarchy—and the end result will be the demise of the church we love. We write not as members of any board or caucus group, but as United Methodist pastors who have committed our lives to this great denomination and who treasure our Wesleyan heritage. We believe there is a way forward—and that way requires that pastors and congregations live by the Book of Discipline, and that our Episcopal leaders maintain its integrity by enforcing it unapologetically.
The Church needs you to lead. We need you to act before the promised disobedience occurs. We need you to issue a public statement that you understand the proposed disobedience to be a grave threat to the unity and the life of the UM Church and that you stand together in your commitment to defend and enforce the Book of Discipline. We pray and trust that you will.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Tom Harrison, Asbury UMC, Tulsa, OK
Rev. Charles Kyker, Christ UMC, Hickory, NC
Rev. Ed Robb III, The Woodlands UMC, The Woodlands, TX
Rev. Ken Werlein, Faithbridge UMC, Spring, TX
Rev. Steve Wood, Mount Pisgah UMC, Alpharetta, GA
Rev. Jorge Acevedo, Grace UMC, Fort Meyers, FL
Rev. John Allen, Trietsch UMC, Flower Mound, TX
Rev. Rurel Ausley, Niceville UMC, Niceville, FL
Rev. Mark Beeson, Granger Community Church (UMC), Granger, IN
Rev. Davis Chappell, First UMC, Lawrenceville, GA
Rev. Bryan Collier, Orchard UMC, Tupelo, MS
Rev. Robert Collins, Jr., Centenary UMC, Modesto, CA
Rev. Talbot Davis, Good Shepherd UMC, Charlotte, NC
Rev. Stephen Dodson, Peachtree City UMC, Peachtree City, GA
Rev. Nolan Donald, Wordserve UMC, Fulshear, TX
Rev. Charles Ferrara, New Life Community Church UMC, New Fairfield, CT
Rev. Scott Field, Wheatland Salem UMC, Naperville, IL
Rev. Robert Gorrell, Church of the Servant (UMC), Oklahoma City, OK
Rev. Jeffery Greenway, Reynoldsburg UMC, Reynoldsburg, OH
Rev. Randall Hageman, Gateway Community UMC, Houston, TX
Rev. Chet Harris, Dueber UMC, Canton, OH
Rev. Neal Harris, First UMC, Reedley, CA
Rev. Matthew Hartsfield,Van Dyke UMC, Tampa, FL
Rev. Tony Holifield, Central UMC, Fayetteville, AR
Rev. Jerry House, Jr., Christ UMC, College Station, TX
Rev. Godfrey Hubert, Foundry UMC, Houston, TX
Rev. Chong IL Kim, Bible UMC of New York, Dix Hills, NY
Rev. James Leggett, Grace Fellowship UMC, Katy, TX
Rev. Kenneth Levingston, Jones Memorial UMC, Houston, TX
Rev. Joseph MacLaren, University Carillon UMC, Oviedo, FL
Rev. Jim Martin, The River UMC, Richmond, TX
Rev. Jorge Mayorga Solis, Metro Region Superintendent, Milwaukee, WI
Rev. David McEntire, First UMC, Lakeland, FL
Rev. Gregory McGarvey, Carmel UMC, Carmel, IN
Rev. Randell Mickler, Mt. Bethel UMC, Marietta, GA
Rev. Allen Newton, St. James UMC, Montgomery, AL
Rev. Randy Paige, Christ Church UMC, Port Jefferson Station, NY
Rev. Gregg Parris, Union Chapel Ministries (UMC), Muncie, IN
Rev. Wade Paschal, First UMC, Tulsa, OK
Rev. James Preisig, Lee’s Summit UMC, Lee’s Summit, MO
Rev. Michael Ramsdell, First UMC, Mansfield, TX
Rev. Stephen Ramsdell, First UMC, Waco, TX
Rev. Phil Roughton Christ UMC, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Rev. Charles Savage II, Georgia UM Foundation CEO, Norcross, GA
Rev. James Savage, Riverchase UMC, Hoover, AL
Rev. Mike Schreiner, Morning Star Church, O’Fallon, MO
Rev. Robin Scott, Clear Branch UMC, Trussville, AL
Rev. Ralph Sigler, Harvest Church UMC, Dothan, AL
Rev. Roger Spahr, Cornerstone Church, Watertown, SD
Rev. Lester Spencer, Gulf Breeze UMC, Gulf Breeze, FL
Rev. Gregory Stover, Armstrong Chapel UMC, Cincinnati, OH
Rev. Richard Thompson, First UMC, Bakersfield, CA
Rev. Tim Thompson, Frazer UMC, Montgomery, AL
Rev. Doug Thrasher, Hillside UMC, Woodstock, GA
Rev. Robert Tindale, Killearn UMC, Tallahassee, FL
Rev. Ronald Watts, La Croix UMC, Cape Girardeau, MO
Rev. Stephen Wende, First UMC, Houston, TX
Rev. Alice Wolfe, Christ UMC, Baltimore, OH
Rev. Harold Zimmick, Asbury UMC, Madison, WI
The originators of the letter to the Bishops, invite clergy and laity to visit www.faithfulumc.com to add their names to the appeal to the Bishops.
By Reed Hoppe
Arthur and Mary Alice Ivey are Mission Society missionaries who have served in Huancayo, Peru since 2001. Arthur graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in civil engineering. He worked as an engineer for many years while he felt a growing call to serve cross-culturally. Mary Alice graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in early childhood education and taught school for several years. The Iveys participated in short-term mission trips for 13 years while praying about moving overseas.
What the Iveys discovered after they moved to Peru was that people would come to know Christ very quickly, but there was no structure in place to disciple these new Christians in their faith.
After spending several years learning the language and getting to know the culture, the Lord gave Arthur a formula for discipling new Jesus-followers.
Arthur leads four discipleship groups at a time, each comprised of eight-to-fifteen members. They meet for two hours each week to fellowship and study Scripture. Each group stays together for about two and a half years. Every person in the group commits to begin discipling someone else within six-to-twelve months. Many of the members start their own discipleship groups, which has led to 250 groups discipling more than 3,400 people at this time.
“The Western church model doesn’t work well in Peruvian culture,” said Arthur. “Most Peruvians are culturally Catholic, and 10-15 percent are evangelical. Many people are syncretistic. When people can’t find the answers they are looking for in church, they leave, and many of the churches are losing members.
“I think the discipleship model has worked so well in Peru because it met a deep need in the heart of the Peruvians. Peru is a very social culture, so the interactive Bible study works well. We have gone to the people with the gospel message and they have found the answers they were searching for in Jesus.”
The Iveys also run a Kids’ Club ministry. More than 1,000 children, ranging in age from two to fifteen years old, come to the Clubs each week. Mary Alice writes the curriculum and disciples many of the leaders who coordinate the 12 groups currently meeting.
The Iveys’ goal is to bring people to know Jesus as Lord and train them to be able to witness to and disciple others. They have seen a dramatic change in many people’s lives as they accept Jesus and seek to live a godly life.
Just this past Easter, Arthur accompanied three brothers to visit their father in prison. Flavio, a former pastor, is in prison for the murder of three people. He also sexually abused his two daughters when they were young. One of his sons, Benjamin, spent time in prison due to the fact that his father involved in him the murders.
Benjamin, Jose, and Moises had not seen their father in more than 15 years. During that time, Benjamin accepted Christ and has been discipled in one of Arthur’s small groups. Benjamin now wanted to tell his father that he had forgiven him. Flavio was thrilled to be reunited with his sons. He came to know Jesus several years ago through a discipleship group that one of Arthur’s colleagues started in the prison. Flavio now leads several discipleship groups in the prison.
After leaving the prison that Sunday, Jose decided to give his life to Jesus. Arthur said, “It was wonderful to spend Easter Sunday experiencing the Lord Jesus’ resurrection power working in the lives of persons to bring salvation and restoration.”
Lizbeth is one of Flavio’s daughters. “Lizbeth and her mother knocked on our door one day looking for help, and we connected her with one of our discipleship groups,” said Arthur. “She was just destroyed. Through the discipleship group, she came to know Christ. She was able to forgive her father and was set free from the pain she had carried throughout her life.”
Lizbeth is now a powerful witness for Jesus. She has traveled all over Peru, speaking about her abuse and how Jesus set her free. Most of Lizbeth’s family has now come to know Christ. They are responsible for personally starting 12 discipleship groups throughout the years, which have ministered to hundreds of people and helped others find freedom in Christ.
“There are so many similar stories,” said Arthur. “I see God moving among his people in Peru to set them free to be the Church he desires them to be—a Church that longs to know him more intimately and wants others to know him, too, a Church that disciples people,” says Arthur.
Reed Haigler Hoppe serves as an associate editor for The Mission Society and is an ordained deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. You can make a donation to the Iveys’ ministry at www.themissionsociety.org/people/ivey.
By Duffy Robbins
I’ve never given birth to a child.
But, I know something about the birthing process.
In fact, all of us who teach, preach, or speak on a regular basis—whether to a small group, a large group or something in between—know something about the process of conception, preparation, and delivery. And what we all understand is that delivery is always the high point of the drama. All of the planning and prep work, all of the Bible study, all of the brainstorming—all of it comes down to the moment of delivery. If you’re teaching, preaching, or speaking to teenagers on a regular basis, you know that none of it matters until your students hear and respond to God’s Word.
What that means is that the critical part of communication is not just conceiving the topic or preparing the lesson; it’s about bringing that baby to life!
In the last few issues of Good News, we’ve talked about the process of deciding what goes into a message—will it be a four-week series or a stand alone lesson, a topical message or a textual message? That’s important. But, for the next few issues we’re going to be thinking about how to deliver the message—not what goes into the talk, but what comes out when you talk.
They Don’t Call it Labor for Nothing
Most of us know well Paul’s charge in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season…”
We also know it can be tough work.
Some say it can’t be done, or that it shouldn’t be—that teenagers today don’t respond to spoken messages the way they used to. Some very creative and articulate youth ministry thinkers believe that we should be moving away from “the talk” as we’ve thought about it in the past—that our communication needs to be more visual in delivery, more active in approach, and less linear in form. Some believe that Paul may have said, “Preach the Word…in season and out of season,” but perhaps its time to declare open season on the spoken message as a form of effective communication to teenagers.
Research, for example, tells us that the vocabulary of North American ninth graders dropped from 25,000 words in 1940 to 10,000 words in 1990. This is an audience that spends hours a day in an on-line environment in which people on average watch only 21.8 seconds of a 30 second online video ad. The average segment of attention without a break in television is a grand total of seven minutes! Is it really strategic to speak to a teenage audience for ten, twenty, or thirty minutes using the spoken word?
I, for one, believe it can be. I don’t believe it’s an either-or proposition.
I’m convinced that our teaching must be shaped by the audience factors we’ve discussed in this space over the last several months. That’s critically important. And I strongly encourage youth workers to use lots of different types of communication styles. I’ve co-written books like Spontaneous Melodramas, Memory Makers, and Everyday Object Lessons because I understand that our youth groups are filled with students who learn in lots of different ways. If we’re teaching every week with a “stand and deliver” style, we probably aren’t maximizing our impact with every student. We should be using visual delivery, active learning, and other narrative and creative forms of teaching.
But, I’m not ready to say, “Speaking is passe,” and I’m not ready to do that for the most basic of reasons: I’ve seen the impact of the spoken Word in the lives of teenagers.
But I also believe it’s incredibly hard work. No wonder Paul followed up his charge in 2 Timothy 4:2 with these words: “…correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Like every other skill, good speaking requires intention and execution. And like every other impossible mission, it requires the power of God. Of course, we know God will do his part! But, how can we more effectively do our part, especially if we don’t feel like gifted speakers and teachers? It’s a question posed by lots of sincere youth volunteers and Sunday school teachers.
And it’s a question we’ll begin to explore in the next issue of Good News.
Thank you Good News, and Steve Harper for distilling the essence of Wesley’s spirituality. “Embracing Wesleyan Spirituality” (July/August 2011) reads like an invitation to join together in experiencing a warm and wonderful place of the heart.
For more than 50 years I have had a keen interest in reading the writings of John Wesley and those who have sought to explain their understanding of him and his work. I believe that Harper has captured and communicated the totality of what Wesley was/is all about, sharing not only the essence but the challenge for those of us who would “follow in his train.”
Harper reminded us of the sources, the undergirding if you will, of Wesley’s doctrine and hence of his spirituality. Hopefully, we, as his children in the Faith, will take to heart Wesley’s emphasis on the supremacy of Scripture. “To the law and to the testimony!” (Isaiah 8:20) became what we might call his mantra, as he interpreted scripture by scripture, as a matter of course. Only when Scripture was silent or of doubtful interpretation did he turn to Tradition (which he defined as “antiquity:” the ancient church fathers’ writings, with the practices of the saints, up to the early fourth century); followed by Reason (meaning logically developed argument); and lastly Experience (i.e., the historical experience of God’s people through the centuries—he wrote: “Neither…by the experience of this or that particular person”).
I pray that we will hold tenaciously to these supporting pillars of Wesley’s spirituality. If we lose the supports, we lose everything.
The authority of Scripture
The Wall Street Journal recently carried an op-ed by David Aikman, former Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine, about the persecution of non-state approved churches in China (July 11, 2011, “Beijing’s Theology of Repression”). Aikman explained that the Chinese government has approved one Catholic Church and one Protestant Church which stay within government approved boundaries and control, while persecuting the many independent and largely underground house churches. The article noted that “the faith that TSPM (government churches) adhere to is what church history calls liberal theology, while the faith of the house churches is evangelical theology.” That line brought to mind what happened in Nazi Germany.
Church leaders, pastors and theologians who led the state approved churches were liberal, while leaders, pastors and theologians of the Confessing Church were evangelical. Why would there be this repeated pattern? Liberal theology tends to downplay the inspiration and authority of Scripture, while evangelicals hold a higher view of Scripture. When you don’t believe in the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture, you have no solid anchor to hold you, no Truth with a capital T, so it’s easier to compromise and drift into the path of least resistance.
A United Methodist pastor from Russia told me the same is true in Russia, where the state-approved Orthodox Church places little emphasis on Scripture and more on tradition, while non-state approved churches are almost all evangelical and/or Pentecostal and hold a much higher view of Scripture. While the non-Orthodox churches do have a measure of freedom, they are viewed with some suspicion by the state and face occasional roadblocks that the Orthodox Church does not.
We see the same tendency in the United States, particularly in the mainline churches. One after another, the more liberal mainline churches have followed the path of least resistance, surrendering formerly biblical stances on homosexuality and other doctrinal/ethical issues to stances that are more in line with the opinions of secular society.
Of the mainline denominations, only the United Methodist Church has resisted this trend, due in large part to stalwart conservatives in the U.S. and the growing African delegations to our General Conference. One has to wonder if this is one of the reasons the UM Church is declining more slowly than the other mainline denominations. (But let us not call our slower decline a victory!)
While the General Conference has voted to maintain a biblical standard regarding homosexuality every time the issue has been raised, the issue is coming back in a variety of forms.
• A group of retired bishops issued a statement calling for the Church’s stance to be altered.
• The recent trial of the Rev. Amy DeLong of the Wisconsin Conference resulted in a mere slap on the wrist. The Rev. DeLong performed a “holy union” ceremony for two homosexuals. Unrepentant and unremorseful, the Rev. DeLong was found guilty and received a mere 20 day suspension from ministerial duties and was ordered to prepare a document “outlining procedures for clergy in order to help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant, create an adversarial spirit, or lead to future clergy trials.” She has said she will perform such ceremonies again if asked.
• Meanwhile, several hundred clergy have signed statements that they will officiate at same-sex ceremonies. Their plan seems to be that, if charged, they will so clog up the system that efforts to discipline them will fall apart. And you can be sure there will be yet another effort at General Conference to change the official stance of the United Methodist Church.
While there are many angles to consider (political maneuvering, church growth and health, the unity of the UM Church, etc.), let’s not forget the foundational issue: the Divine inspiration and authority of Scripture. Without that, we have no firm anchor to keep us from following the path of least resistance, whether the winds blow us toward serving the interests of the state or blending in with secular society.
Northwest Hills UM Church
San Antonio, Texas
The DeLong Challenge
My thoughts on the “DeLong Challenge” are as long as we take a process stand on addressing these offenses they will only continue to multiply. What speaks loudest in any breach of contract or in this case vows is to eliminate one’s financial compensation within a set period of time. I would error on compassion considering today’s economy. Give them thirty days notice.
With the possibility of losing their compensation along with retirement may allow them to rethink how ‘right’ they really think they are. They are playing poker and are doing an excellent job in their bluff. What are they really losing by the most recent example?
Clergy who are casting aside their vows should not be allowed to continue, period. If a further example is needed consider this. Most everyone has a drivers license, right? It comes with responsibilities and accountability. So what would happen if there were people who now felt that speed laws did not apply to them? It may be simplistic, but why is the United Methodist Church rewarding bad behavior with such lax responses. In order to heal a wound one must address what is the cause of the infection. I’m growing tired of the stance that rogue clergy are exempt from accountability.
May we one day regain our unity in Christ’s service,
Gives me hope
I wanted to thank you for your uncompromising article in the latest Good News. I am an ordained minister in the Wesleyan denomination, serving under InterChurch Service appointment as Minister of Youth and Music in a United Methodist congregation. One of my biggest hesitations to taking this position, which I believe to be an assignment from the Lord, was the issue of homosexual unions and homosexual clergy and my perception of how it’s been mishandled in the UM Church in recent years.
Your article gives me hope that there is still a strong voice for doing what Scripture instructs, and what the UM Book of Discipline requires. May the Bishops heed your clarion call for greater accountability and integrity on this issue. I believe that, should the result be numbers of clergy leaving the UM Church, God can and will replace them with men and women who are dedicated to the Scriptural positions to which the denomination holds.
By B.J. Funk
Realizing that he would soon be gone from this world, Dwight L. Moody said to a friend, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody is dead. Don’t you believe it. At that moment, I will be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint. I was born in the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
When we awake in the morning, we only know we were asleep because we awoke. Explaining exactly what happened is impossible. We cannot explain moving from consciousness to sleep any more than we can explain moving from life to death. We only know that we move out of one life into another life, never dying but continuing to live. In a moment, without knowing how, we discard the jacket called our body. It is no longer useful. We only needed our body in order to live on earth. That’s over now.
Someone put on the grave of Benjamin Franklin, “Here lies all that could die of Benjamin Franklin.”
One of my favorite devotionals concerning death comes from Streams in the Desert. In speaking of his soon coming death, the author wrote, “The owner of the tenement which I have occupied for many years has given notice that he will furnish but little or nothing more for repairs. I am advised to be ready to move. At first, this was not a very welcomed notice. The surroundings here are in many respects very pleasant, and were it not for the evidence of decay, I should consider the house good enough. But, even a light wind causes it to tremble and totter, and all the braces are not sufficient to make it secure. So, I am getting ready to move.”
Watching family members die has given me a new appreciation for God’s plan for us. While the process of death can be excruciatingly painful and sad, death is the only avenue we have for unconquerable pain to end. There is no other way for us to get out of a diseased or broken body other than death. Death is what God uses to transfer us from one life to another. With that in mind, death is another of God’s gifts to us. In a flash, we move our residence from earth to heaven, where complete healing takes place.
Where do we go when this happens? Jesus says we go to his Father’s House. These are some of the sweetest words every recorded. We are given a beautiful illustration of where we will be. Not just any house, but my Father’s house. I wonder if it is something like my grandparent’s big, rambling white house, which had so many bedrooms and interesting places for my sister and me to hide. My favorite place was the large front porch lined with rocking chairs. I was completely content rocking at Grandma’s house.
In John 14:1-4, Jesus says, (paraphrased), “Don’t worry. Instead trust God. There are a lot of rooms in my Father’s house. I’ll go before you and get everything ready. Then, I’ll come back and get you so you can be where I am.”
Added to the enchanting invitation to go to my Father’s house is now the endearing understanding that Jesus is there. He goes before us, as a forerunner. What could be better than going to the Father’s house and finding Jesus waiting for us. I don’t really need to know any more about heaven. If Jesus is there, that’s enough.
William Barclay suggests that “many rooms” means that there is room for all. An earthly house can become overcrowded, but our Father’s house is as wide as the heart of God. Barclay further suggests, “Don’t be afraid. In this world, people may shut their doors upon you. But in heaven, you will never be shut out.”
Near death experiences support our understanding of another life after this one. Reassuring stories are told by some who claim an out of body experience before coming back to earth. A recurring theme includes a bright light and a tunnel. We might question the validity of this. However, there are enough believers to have established a Near Death Experience Research Foundation whose website claims 2500 near death experiences.
Several years ago, a popular country song reminded us to “Live Like We Were Dying.” Truthfully, every day we live, we are dying. It is not until we actually die that we truly begin to live. Our new home will be cozy, joyful, colorful and peaceful, sort of like rocking at Grandma’s house.