The Age of Coronavirus

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalms 42:1-9; Matthew 11:2-7

I planned to continue our Sermon on the Mount series today and by Wednesday night had almost finished a sermon on the portion of the SOM which include the Lord’s Prayer.

God knows that we need prayer and a lot of it right now. However, by Thursday morning, it seemed that the earth had shifted under our feet and we found ourselves living in a different age than the one in which we began the week.

As I watched the early news that day, it seemed that something other than a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer was needed because we have entered the Age of the Coronavirus.

May it be short-lived and its consequences only minor. . . but experts are not predicting that will be the case. As you know, most predict serious consequences and some are saying that they will be long-term.

Truthfully, though, I guess the Age of Coronavirus arrived two months ago and I only noticed it this week.

Jesus tells us to pay attention to the signs of the times, doesn’t he? I had failed to do so, but woe be to us if we do not pay attention to them now, for the signs of the time ring out loudly around us.

The times are dangerous.

I checked some statistics in preparation for this sermon. The following are all from the Center for Diseases Control website.

At the end of January, the coronavirus was reported to be in China and 20 other countries. In those countries, a bit over 8000 cases had been reported. The death toll stood at 150.

As of yesterday (3/14/20), some six weeks later, the virus had spread to 130 countries and the total number of cases had climbed from that 8,000 to over 150,000. The death toll, meanwhile, increased from 150 to 5614.

All of these are increases along the lines of four or five hundred per cent, at least according to my rather shaky mathematical abilities.

And, it also was last week when the WHO declared the virus to be a pandemic.

Around mid-week, we started hearing of cancellations, closings and delays.

The NCAA tournament, the Masters, the NBA season, the rest of spring training and the first few weeks of the regular season for Major League baseball.

Some cruise lines shut down trips for at least one month. Others shut down for two months

Disneyland, Disneyworld, Six Flags, Sea World and other theme parks went dark.

School districts and universities cancelled classes and/or extended spring break.

And, it was Thursday morning when a case popped up in Austin. It was a man over 60 who had been transferred from a rural hospital somewhere in the Central Texas region. That hit home. It could have been one of us.

I also was surprised Thursday morning to open an email from our district superintendent in Kerrville saying that the decision to hold services would be left up to each church.

You are probably aware by now that many churches in the United States and across the world have cancelled services or are having online services only.

These include churches not just in so-called virus “hot spots” but also churches which are exercising precautions, not so much in worshipping God as in hosting a public gathering that might threaten the health of those in attendance as well as the health of those who might come into contact with someone who attended.

Please note that I am not asking that we cancel our services right now because of our small size. However, as we talked about last week, we need to exercise the recommended social distancing and hygienic precautions.

In addition, many churches that are still holding services have suspended celebrating the Lord’s Supper or have begun using prepackaged communion sets.

Consistent with this, I have ordered 250 prepackaged sets for us. However, these will not ship until Tuesday at the earliest. Hopefully, they will arrive in time for the first Sunday of April. If not, we will need to make other plans that may include suspension of the Lord’s Supper.

So that is a quick summary of coronavirus news and how the ground shifted under us this past week.

However, I also did an internet search to see how other churches, theologians and pastors regarded the coronavirus. I looked at the websites of the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian church, Episcopal church, Church of Scotland, United Church of Christ as welll as that of others.

They all excelled in listing the hygienic and social contact considerations and other related matters, but at his point, I was more interested in theological and spiritual issues.

I had two main questions rolling around in my mind.

The first was, “Where is God in this?” I wanted to find out how our Christian brothers and sisters saw God moving in these times.

I had a tentative answer in mind. That is why these verses from Exodus were read today.

That question, “Where is God?” was stated a little bit differently in those verses. You might remember in verse 7, the question was stated, “Is the Lord still with us or not?” However stated, the thoughts come from essentially the same point of view: where is God in hard times such as these?

You might remember the background to these verses. God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them across the Red Sea.

That put them in the desert portion of what today we call the Sinai peninsula. In that desert, there are two main seasons. There is the dry season and the very dry season. Surprisingly, there are also times of the year when it can get quite cold at night but, not so surprisingly, there also are times when it can get very hot during the day.

We don’t know the time of year it was, but we do know in these verses that the Israelites were thirsty.

That is not surprising. According to Exodus, there were several hundred thousand of them, each needing water. And they had no water and no immediate prospects of finding any.

Even in good conditions, a human can only live about four days without hydration. If the temperatures are hot, that period might shrink to one or two days at most.

The Israelites might have been in life-or-death situation. Whether or not that is true, we do that a wail went up from them to Moses, “Are you trying to kill us?”

And, in my words, “Where is God?”

Or, as the verses say, “Is the Lord with us?”

The quick answer is that God was with them. In fact, God was going to lead them to water and quench their thirst.

Just so, I think God is with us now, that God is with all people affected in the outbreak of this evil and that God will see us through these times.

My second question was, “What, then, are we to do?”

This question came from a number of places in the Bible that describe what God or God-in-Jesus did in response to evil and human suffering, as well as our readings from the Sermon on the Mount and hundreds of other verses that describe how God’s people are to live.

You might recall talking in past weeks that we are called to act like Jesus, who also calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

One instance that tells of God’s actions in hard times is described in Isaiah 42 as well as the verses surrounding that entire chapter.

Those chapters all combine to tell us about a great Second Exodus, one of God leading the Hebrews out of exile in Babylon and bringing them back to the Promised Land.

In these particular verses, God talks of one who will be sent in the future to take on human suffering and deliver divine justice.

God spoke and said in part,

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
   my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
   he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
   or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
   and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
   he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
   until he has established justice in the earth;
   and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”

His servant, God said, would not break a bruised reed or quench a dimly burning wick but would faithfully bring forth justice.

And make no mistake, this virus is evil and divine justice needs to address it.

That points to my tentative answer for what we are called to do. Remember, the my tentative answer to the first question was God is with us. My tentative answer to this second questions is that God is in the healing, God is working against virus to bring forth life. And, we are called to join our Creator in that great work.

Part of my tentative answer also comes Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:2-7.

John the Baptist has been imprisoned. He was wondering who Jesus was. Was he the One whom God promised to send? Was this man from Nazareth the Messiah?

So, John sent some of his disciples to find Jesus and ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’

In response, Jesus described his work on earth,

“‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.'”

Again, God is where the and wherever healing is occurring or relief to be found.

A corollary to that is that we are to join God in that great battle with this virus.

But still, I wanted to know what others were thinking. So I checked out some websites. Not surprisingly, there are a variety of reactions to the coronavirus within the world of Christendom.

I first went to the website of John Piper. He is a noted evangelical preacher, author and thinker.

He gave what seemed to me to be a rather classical explanation of how some people understand God to be working in these situations.

In short, he said that God could have stopped this, but in God’s providence and wisdom, God did not stop this. He concluded that whatever else we might say about this, it is a time to repent and turn back to God. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-we-make-sense-of-the-coronavirus

This seems to me to be incomplete, but there you have it.

I moved on an quickly found the preacher seemed to get the most publicity for his views about the coronavirus. I will not mention his name. However, he claimed the virus is God’s angel of death sent to destroy LGBTQs and other sinners. Well, may his kind decrease and decrease quickly. https://www.advocate.com/religion/2020/1/29/god-sent-coronavirus-destroy-lgbtq-people-says-trump-okd-preacher

One more prevalent opinion was given on a few different sites. There were some differences on what God was up to but these sites agreed that this is a chance to call non-believers to belief, in other words, a chance to evangelize. https://www.christianpost.com/voices/the-coronavirus-and-evangelism.html

And then there were those who said that the virus is part of the trials and tribulations of the end times. Their point was that the apocalypse is near. https://www.thetrumpet.com/21859-the-wuhan-coronavirus-and-the-bibles-prophesied-disease-pandemics

By my reading, all of these theories seem to tell us that God caused the coronavirus for a particular reason. God had a plan in mind, they might say.

That might be true. Maybe.

I look to other places in the Bible, though, that tell me evil happens and that God is:

with those who hurt and suffer,

with those who are lonely and despairing,

with those who are ill and disabled,

with those who sore and beaten down,

with those who need freedom and liberation.

Just so, God was with the Hebrews in the wilderness.

God told Moses to go ahead and he would be there at Mt. Horeb and that there would be water in the rocks.

In other words, God was there to give drink to the thirsty.

Later, when John wanted to know if he was a Messiah, Jesus didn’t say, “Yes, and I have come to judge all and punish the guilty.”

Instead, in essence, he said, “I am he whom God has sent. I am the one who will not break a bruised reed. I am the one who will not quench a dimly burning wick. I have come to be with those who suffer. I have come to hold their hand; to heal their ills; to lift their oppressions; to grant them new life; and, even to raise the dead.

So, friends, I don’t think God sent the coronavirus to achieve a particular purpose or carry out some kind of plan. Instead, disease seems to be part of the evil of nature that sometimes breaks out.

I do think, however that we see God-in-Jesus at work:

wherever someone is ill or dying;

wherever someone is searching for a cure;

wherever someone is seeking to develop a test to detect the illness;

wherever a healthcare worker lifts a spoon to feed someone who is ill;

wherever a pastor, friend or family member speaks a good word to someone fearful or someone afflicted; or

wherever a local or national official speaks to bring truth, calm and direction.

I believe that Jesus is doing what he has always done, seeking to:

heal the afflicted;

lift people’s burdens;

soothe their fears;

calm their souls;

give them direction in life; and

offer them life and even life abundant.

So, as we go forth today,

let us go forth to live and serve as did our Lord,

let us forth to seek to bring forth life,

let us go forth to love to our neighbor,

to bring hope there is despair, and

kindness where there is sorrow.

We want for our Lord to live through us.

So, my answers to those issues of where God might be and what God might be doing are: that God is with us and seeking to bring about good.

And, we need to join God in seeking that good.

But, let us remember something two other things, as well.

I came across article this week about Martin Luther, who lived during a recurrence of the Black Plague. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/january-web-only/martin-luther-coronavirus-wuhan-chinese-new-year-christians.html

It told of how Luther was asked how Christians should respond and that he wrote a relatively long response to the question. It then described his response.

First, Luther challenged Christians to see opportunities to tend to the sick as tending to Christ himself (Matt. 25:41–46).

We have covered that.

Second, Luther also stressed that Christians needed to take care of themselves.

So, take this seriously. It is a killer. Take care of yourselves.

Luther made it clear that God gives humans a tendency toward self-protection and trusts that they will take care of their bodies (Eph. 5:29; 1 Cor. 12:21–26).

“All of us,” he wrote, “have the responsibility of warding off this poison to the best of our ability because God has commanded us to care for the body.”

He also defended public health measures such as quarantines and seeking medical attention when available.

Each of us has ample information and amply opportunity to take care of ourselves and not take this virus lightly.

We do need to remember, though, that even as we take care of ourselves, there are times we can help others and be useful to each other, at least in some small way.

Finally, we can also remember from our study on prayer that we are called to pray.

So, let us pray,

pray for an end to the virus,

pray for a vaccine to arrive,

pray for test kits,

pray for health to be widespread and robust,

pray for grace to prevail,

pray for those who have died,

pray for those who love them,

pray for those who are ill,

pray for the caregivers,

pray for local, state and national officials trying to cope with this virus,

and pray to in all things to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world,

always trusting in God and God’s good will toward humankind.

Amen.

A [Rare] Act of Courage

Acts of political courage, and especially political courage borne of religious faith, have always been scarce in Washington, D.C.

We are fortunate to have a rare sighting of such courage yesterday when Senator Mitt Romney announced his conclusion that President Trump was guilty of abuse of power. This is a video of his Senate speech.

Of course, one can never know what prompts another person to act in a certain way. But I believe Romney when he says that his decision was impelled by his faith.

He said, “I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial judgment. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am.”

After laying the foundation for his vote, he stated the question and his conclusion, “The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.”

What prompts me to think that his vote was based on his oath before God and not other matters is that there is no upside for him in voting to convict. However, there is a decided downside.

And, the downside backlash he will have to endure will have nothing to do with faith or truth but everything to do with the intense partisanship which infects American politics.

Thus, he will face the scorn of fellow senators for not voting “with the team.”

Many of his constituents will turn against him.

MAGA diehards will do their best to make his life miserable.

Conservative talks show hosts will do the same.

And President Trump and his family will lead the chorus.

Indeed, the piling began immediately and has only intensified.

I admire his action, however, and wonder if it is not actions like this that Jesus was referring to in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “ ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ ” Matthew 5:11-12, NRSV.

The rest of us should do so well in giving our main loyalty to God and not to “the team.”

We Are Both Klingons

My wife and I had just finished our afternoon prayers when she said, “Oh, no.”

I turned to see her staring at her phone.

“What?”

“Trump has just tweeted out a warning to Iran against attacking any Americans. He told them we had 52 Iranian sites targeted.”

Oy, vey. The Child President, he of much bullying and bluster, strikes again.

I can see him as a sixth-grader, hair swept back even then, taunting and glowering at the kindergarteners.

The thing is, we can be sure that Iran is quite aware of his hatred and also aware that many Iranian sites are targeted by the American military. It is the way we are. We have targeted hundreds if not thousands of sites across the world. I’m primarily looking at you Russia, China, and North Korea, in addition to Iran.

To be fair, other countries have hundreds or thousands of sites targeted in the United States. See countries named above.

We like to think we are a people of peace, reluctantly drawn into war, but such is not the case. The United States has been involved in roughly 80 wars, give or take, in our short history. We are not pikers when it comes to the war. We are Klingons. We have clearly instigated several wars, most notably the war with Mexico and the Spanish-American War. We also have conducted a genocide. You can ask any Native American about that. Let’s not even get into the violence of slavery.

And if you believe that General Sulimeini was the first leader in another country that we have assassinated, please think again. By most counts, we are well into the double figures. I am including Osama Bin Laden in my list, but it also includes democratically elected leaders, such as Chile’s Salvador Allende.

And, our killing of Suliemani was not the first time we have been involved in having our way, so to speak, with an Iranian government.

In fact, some people date our present discord with Iran as being rooted in our 1953 overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government, thus ending democracy in that country.

Mohammad Mossadegh was elected in 1951 as the thirty-fifth prime minister of Iran. He remained in office until 1953, when he was overthrown in a coup d’état orchestrated by the CIA and Great Britain’s MI6.

His sin against the Western powers was that he had nationalized the oil industry. The end result was that the power of the Shah was solidified and popular rule undercut.

Of no small import is the fact that the United States became the Big Dog in Iran, heavily subsidizing the Shah and his government, which in turn kept the oil spigots open and Big Oil happy. As the Shah become increasingly despotic, general resentment toward the United States increased.

That resentment exploded in 1979 when the unpopular Shah was deposed and the United States embassy invaded and many of its staffers imprisoned. Although they were later released, Iranian-American relations remained poor for decades.

Now, the Child President has precipitously upped the ante and, if possible, increased the hostility between the two.

Openly assassinating the leading general of Iran was an option rejected by both Presidents Bush and Obama.

It is hard to say that those were more prudent times, but such are the days in which we live. Those were more prudent times.

The Child President can kill and disrupt peace one day and threaten to make things even worse the next.

To be sure, Suleimani was a bad actor and present-day Iran openly kills its own citizens and instigates troubles across the Middle East. It is hard to cry for them.

Let us not think in this, however, that the United States has the moral high ground.

My thought is that we are both Klingons.

Woe be to those who get caught in between.

And let us pray that the violence end now. Suleimani isn’t worth it.

Shiny Object Syndrome a/k/a Fiddling While the World Burns

Egad! The bright and shiny objects of the week are, once again, any news relating to Donald Trump.

Trump
Our omnipresent “Bright and Shiny Object”

In the so-called “Age of Distraction,” Trump IS the distraction. From wall-to-wall coverage of the impeachment hearings to breathless headlines about “today’s” tweets to tut-tutting over the latest executive order (He is not anti-Semitic!), Americans glut themselves on all things Trump.

This week is only the latest example.

There is the omnipresent coverage of the impeachment hearings (The Democrats are for! The Republicans against!).

Thursday, we could feast on reactions to his comments about Greta Thunberg being named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” (Trump bullies sixteen-year-old!).

Daily, we could peruse news flashes about his latest abominations (Trump moves to cut disability benefits! Trump cuts food stamps! Trump calls FBI “scum!”).

Unfortunately, almost hidden by this Trumpian avalanche is the most important event of our lifetime, a mere tip of its iceberg visible above the orange-hued snow in which it lays buried.

That iceberg is the climate crisis.

While all government and much of our population chains itself to the latest and greatest, brightest and shiniest Trump revelations of the day, that crisis worsens. . . and worsens.

And nothing gets done.

Sea levels slowly increase, islands get swamped, populations become displaced, animal species grow extinct and our own regional climates warm up, dry up and become less predictable and more volatile.

Climate change is not going to happen. It has happened and continues to happen. . . for the worse.

methane
The EPA is seeking to relieve restrictions on methane emissions like these. Methane is one of the worst producers of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, our government does nothing except exacerbate it.

And our citizens remain hypnotized to the point of inaction by the orange shiny things that swing daily across their eyes.

One of the apocryphal stories of history is that of Rome going up in flames while Emperor Nero fiddled.

Rome did burn, but it is unlikely that Nero ever fiddled for the simple reason that there were no fiddles in his day.

However, the story makes the important point that bad things can happen when people pay them no heed and, instead, “fiddle” away their time.

Collectively, that is what we are doing—fiddling while Rome burns.

Democratic office holders, or most of them, would like to act, but we hear precious little from the major presidential candidates who battle instead over Medicare-for-all and the other candidates’ business ties.

For their part, Republican office holders remain in the grossest form of denialism while greedily accepting money from fossil fuel interests.

Even worse, most of the public, no matter whether they identify with a party or are steadfastly independent, pay little but lip service to the issue.

However, if you like your seashores, mountains, existing species and more predictable, calmer weather, you might turn from the shiny orange things that try to dominate your attention and do something to address this crisis. Really, virtually anything.

Below are a number of sources that give different vantage points as to what your options for action may be. They range from running for office yourself to buying more fuel-efficient vehicles to using your washers and dryers more effectively.

The point is to do something because the world does depend, in part, on you.

BBC article 102-what-can-i-do-about-climate-change

https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2016/09/22/climate-change-solutions

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/climate-change-what-you-can-do-campaigning-installing-insulation-solar-panels

Trump in Flight

A chain reaction was set off earlier today when CNN reported that Tuesday’s White House lockdown was due to the sighting of a “slow-moving blob” crossing the sky.

Learning of the report, Fox News broke into regular programming to announce that Donald Trump apparently had gained the ability to fly.

Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network immediately followed with a news release proclaiming that God had given this ability to Trump in thanks for “Making America Great Again.”

Hard on the heels of that release, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffrees and Paula White said in a joint statement that the flight proved again that Trump was “The Chosen One.”

They also noted that Barack Obama had flown only with the assistance of airplane.

Trump himself added a final note by tweeting that while it was true God had given him the gift in thanks, it was also true that He had given it in worship.

The tweet also noted that “every one of the heavenly host” agreed that Trump was the greatest leader of all time.

Meanwhile, speaking off the record, national security officials said that the mysterious “blob” was likely a large flock of birds or a drone.

Eric and Franklin in Never Never Land

It is hard to know whether to be shocked, amazed or mournful about the relationship of many white, conservative evangelical leaders with Donald Trump.

The latest example can be seen and heard in a recent interview of Eric Metaxes with Franklin Graham, Jr.

While Metaxes is a gifted author and Graham has begun and continued important service ministries, both seem to share a blind spot toward Trump that has led them into a strange world populated entirely by those few who not only admire Trump but also worship him.

The Metaxes-Graham conversation began somewhat normally until Metaxes gave the first indication of his citizenship in an alternate world by observing the “bizarre” phenomenon of people “who exist” to “undermine” the president.

Keep in mind that in past years in this world, many people would actively oppose a president and work against his (never her) policy initiatives. Those people were called “opponents.” Apparently, in the eyes of Metaxes and Graham such people have become sinister and, as we shall see, evil.

For his part, Graham agreed with Metaxes on the “bizarre” behavior and even raised the ante by saying that such people are “almost demonic.”

It got worse.

Metaxes topped Graham by saying, “Almost [demonic]? I would say it is demonic.”

He added that they both know that this is a “spiritual battle.”

Wow! Who knew but them! Trump is fighting with the heavenly forces in the eternal, cosmic battle with. . . gulp. . . “demons” like me.

It continued to worsen.

Graham argued that it is easy for anyone, Republican or Democrat, to see how good Trump is as president.

Yes. He said this. Worried about those child separations? How about his acting against United States policy interests for personal favors? Appalled by the lies and bullying? Franklin says you shouldn’t be.

He went on to add that the economy is “screaming forward.”

Metaxes pulled them both deep into Never Never Land by adding that “everyone knows” that the economy was “dead in the water three years ago.”

Well, no. That is wrong.

Instead, even if Eric cannot face the fact, we can all celebrate that the economy continues to perform well under Trump, just as it did under Obama.

After taking office in January 2009 with the economy in a nosedive, Obama went on to enjoy the final 75 months of his administration with an economy that grew and added jobs each month. In the end, over 11 million jobs were added in that time period.

Meanwhile, Trump’s administration has added 6 million jobs and the economy continues to grow.

Both are good news for Republican and Democrats, even if not for Graham or Metaxes.

We can hope they both return to Earth soon and come to understand that political differences in the United States are not necessarily “demonic” but part of the democratic process and that presidents are men (and, soon, women) but are not gods much less God.

The Walking Dead. . . and Divided

Earlier today, the United Methodist Judicial Council upheld several parts of the controversial “traditional” plan adopted at their conference in February 2019.

It also struck down several other parts of the plan, but that is likely only to be a road bump on the way to a final church split.

It is widely expected that the final rupture (that’s almost a pun) will come next year, when denominational representatives meet in a regularly-scheduled general conference.

When last rites finally are pronounced over the denomination, it is likely that scores, if not hundreds or thousands, of progressive and moderate churches will leave to form a new denomination.

Between now and then, leaders of the respective factions—progressive, moderate and conservative—will meet internally to plan their strategy. Following that, it is likely that a set of leaders representing each faction will meet to see if they can reach an amicable divorce, which is a polite way of saying “agree upon a church schism.”

A church schism, or split, is not an unusual path in either Protestantism or Methodism, notwithstanding Jesus’ great prayer in the John’s gospel that the church be unified. As he says in John 17:11, “Holy Father, protect them. . . so that they may be one as we are one.”

Well, so much for spiritual integrity, even though all sides of the Methodist mess claim that scripture is on their side.

In truth, though, the Christian church has never been “one.” Instead, it has always been a lively, messy, prickly, argumentative conglomerate of people and churches with largely similar beliefs on major issues, who will then divide like angry amoebas over lesser matters.

For example, most Christians throughout history would agree that Jesus is Lord. However, Christians have killed each other over other issues, such as whether infant baptism is scripturally sound or whether Jesus’ blood and body is physically present in the communion elements.

Today’s dividing issue is LGBTQ equality. Thus, if you believe a man can love a man or a woman can love a woman, and that God is okay with that and maybe even celebrates it, well, many Christians believe you to be a heretic, damn you!

And, a good number are willing to persecute you or discriminate against you for that belief (see “evangelical” in your dictionary).

Similar to the global church, United Methodists seem to agree that Jesus is Lord, but they break down bigly over LGBTQ issues, which even the most fervent, fire-breathing conservative agrees is mentioned or alluded to in only a handful of the Bible’s over 31,000 verses.

Of course, the American Methodist church has split over civil rights issues before. Prior to the Civil War, it divided into northern and southern churches over the issue of slavery, and did not reunite until 1939.

Meanwhile, today’s conservatives pooh-pooh any suggestion that they are making the same mistake as their southern forebears, who insisted that some people are entitled to more civil rights than others.

That is hard to maintain when they are, indeed, insisting that some people are entitled to more civil rights than others, but there you go. . .

In their defense, humans have never been much for consistency, but are quite adept at denial.

Unfortunately, the handwriting seems to be on the wall for people who love the United Methodist church and had some hope that the church would stay united despite differences. They will need to find grace in their grief as the denomination hurdles toward division and death.

Fortunately, irrespective of our views on these issues, we can learn from the resurrection verses in Matthew: Jesus is alive and going ahead of us.

Our task is to follow him faithfully and prayerfully as best we can, even in hard and fractious times.