Up until recently, I was a part of conservative Christian denomination whose core message was the end of the world: Jesus is coming soon, the world is becoming “drunk with the harlot’s wine,” and God’s people would be persecuted because of their faith. But don’t worry! After all that, we’ll live happily ever after for all eternity (cue Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus). Oh, and if something bad happened, it was just a “sign of the times” and that things would just get worse before the End.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still fascinated with eschatology and still believe in the blessed hope of Christ’s return, but I started to notice the fruit (or lack thereof) of the theology. I noticed that we took a hands-off approach on pretty much everything, becoming an enabler to oppressive powers. Individual piety was more important than a high moral standard for society, and this just wasn’t sitting well with me.
I can thank (or blame) a United Methodist pastor for helping me transform my understanding of theology. She mentored me and taught me through example what faith in public life ought to look like. Her ministry went beyond the four walls of the sanctuary. It went to local schoolchildren, families recovering from a devastating fire, and even to the state capitol working on the behalf of underserved children. And every Sunday for the benediction, she ended with the words of a spiritual, saying, “Walk together, children, and don’t you get weary. There’s a great camp meeting in the Promised Land!”
A week ago, we arrived at the United Methodist Building here in D.C. and we have gone over a lot. From immigration to environmental racism, from the school-to-prison pipeline and to the proposed cuts of the Federal Budget. It is easy to look at all of this and get weary. It’s easy for me to resort back to my old way of thinking that nothing can be done and that things are just going to get worse. But then, I hear the words of that old spiritual the pastor recited for the benediction.
In D.C., we have connected with various faith-based advocacy organizations, like the UCC Justice & Witness Ministries and the UMC General Board of Church & Society, that do some incredible work here addressing public policies and lobbying on behalf of those marginalized in society. After engaging with the various issues, we had a chance to walk together with Congresswoman Barbara Lee to address concerns we have in our nation and in communities in the East Bay. There was something about our togetherness that made talking about these issues easier. I didn’t feel alone facing all these issues.
This immersion experience has me pumped to serve as a local parish priest. What power and witness our local congregations have in our local government and even at a national level with our partners here in the United Methodist Building. I am looking forward to meeting local government officials with my congregants advocating a more just community and world for all people.
As a Christian, I cling to the hope of the day where sin, death, and injustices are no more and Jesus reigns forever and ever. A day when all of God’s children can live in peace and harmony but until that day comes to its completion, we have work to do.
Walk together, children, don’t you get weary…
There’s a great camp meeting in the Promised Land!