Who are we?

Jul 1, 2016 by

woodsIn a short time we in the Western PA Conference of the UMC will be saying farewell to our bishop, Thomas J. Bickerton. In the United Methodist Church, even our bishops are moved after a period of time.

Bishop Bickerton has left many impressions upon the Conference’s churches, and certainly is to be celebrated for his outstanding work to help eradicate Malaria in Africa. I marvel at the way the UMC, under our bishop’s leadership, has raised almost $75 million through the “Imagine No Malaria” project.

One of my lasting memories of our bishop is how, during one of his messages at an Annual Conference worship service, he characterized some of our churches, both laity and pastors. He mentioned that some church folks act like a beloved childhood character. Who could it be? Mickey Mouse, with his constant optimistic attitude? No. How about Bugs Bunny, with his creativity, charm, and swagger? No. Well, how about old Wiley Coyote, focused like a laser beam on his quest of capturing the roadrunner? No.

Then who is it? It’s Eeyore, the lovable, yet pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, old grey stuffed donkey who is a friend of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Can’t you see him with a downcast expression, head hung low and voice full of woe saying things like:

  • “I never get my hopes up, so I’m never let down” or,
  • “It could be worse. I’m not sure how, but it could be” and of course,
  • “Oh dear, oh my. I’ll just stay here and be miserable.”

It’s sad, but true. Like Eeyore, some folks can look at something that’s full of grace, blessing and life, and still find a reason to be depressed and reject it.

Now please don’t get upset. While there’s a lot of truth to this characterization of some folks, it’s certainly not universal. There are others, many others, far more than are gloomy, who go about with a confident, energized outlook. They look at circumstances and find the hope within them and, with a zestful spirit, embrace the challenge, usually daunting, and get down to work with an expectation of success.

Why is this?

Well, as Pope John Paul II once said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are Easter people.”

We’re not EEYORE’S people, we are EASTER people!

There are millions of people who have bet their very lives on the one who burst through the doorway of death! There are countless people, saints and sinners of every age, who can testify as to the one who gives power to the weary and love to the forgotten! There are women, men and children from every corner of the world who can say, “I once was an Eeyore, but THANK GOD, now I am a disciple of Jesus. I am a part of an eternal family. I am among the Easter People!

Easter people can take a scourge like Malaria and provide reason to believe it can be eliminated from the continent of Africa!

Friends, the antidote to gloom is a healthy dose of love and power from Jesus Christ, through the community of faith, Easter people. And it’s worth it because, though downcast, Eeyore is a gifted, hard-working, and steadfast friend who’s insight and wisdom is often profound.   And Jesus needs the Eeyores as much as he needs Winne-the-Poohs to break down the systems and structures that destroy the hopes and dreams of others, and building outposts of joy in a deeply troubled world.

I love Eeyore, always have, but I would do anything to see him transformed and made aware of his value and gifts to all who live in the Hundred Acre Wood. Likewise, wouldn’t it be splendid to see those mournful, despairing members of Christ’s church so full of the Spirit that they couldn’t help but see visions and dream dreams…and chase after them with the belief that they can be realized.

May it be so.