Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
As I start the new year I am resolved to return to a different rhythm in my life. The melody to this rhythm is found in a hymn written by Joseph Brackett, an eighteenth century elder of the Shaker community in Maine, who penned these words in 1848:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
At some point along the way, the word was that this was a melody to work by, but other historians suggest that this was a dancing tune. This latter theme was picked up when Sidney Carter wrote the words of “The Lord of the Dance” found in our most recent hymnal. Let me suggest that in this melody is the primary work of this new year for Queen Street Church, the work of finding true simplicity.
We love to make life difficult. Have you noticed that we seem to enjoy complexity. When you ask me to do something I come up with a list of why I cannot respond at this time. When I ask you to do something the list is different, but the outcome is the same. Yet Jesus said “let you ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no‘ be ‘no.’” When we look at the calendar for the new year we immediately pencil in everything we did last year and then start adding new events to the schedule. Pretty soon I will have our staff in charge of producing 104 special Sundays a year and wondering why they can only accomplish 52! So let’s stop being complicated and seeking true simplicity this year.
I suggest first that we consider simplifying the way we talk about our faith. I want you to have you personal connection to Jesus Christ, but I want you to understand that following Jesus among the tribe called United Methodists is pretty simple! Bishop Rueben Job suggests that John Wesley’s rules for living together in Christian community can be reduced to three challenges:
- Do No Harm,
- Do Good,
- Stay in Love with God
Is that simple enough for us? I think so. So my pledge to you in the coming year is that I will be asking us to consider all the simple things we can do to further God’s soon-coming kingdom. I will be asking us to uncomplicated our lives and our calendars by throwing out the complicated things that get in the way of true simplicity. And then I want us to dance in God’s simplicity … “’tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free, ‘tis a gift to come down …”
Grace and Peace, Allen