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Our Fifth Book.

July 13, 2019

The Book of Discipline.

Say what?!

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

[PLEASE NOTE: If you’re not sure why I’m writing today about a 5th book, back up and read the first four in this series. You’ll be glad you did.]

Here’s one of my favorite parts of this volume, taken directly from The Preamble to the Constitution of The United Methodist Church: “The church is a community of all true believers under the Lordship of Christ.” Great start, with a simply profound definition of who we are together, right?

The very next sentence defines the church, and remember that’s us in community, as “the redeemed and redeeming fellowship in which the Word of God is preached by persons divinely called, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ’s own appointment.” Don’t you love that? So do I, especially the “redeemed and redeeming” description; I mean, come on, talk about an Identity and a Job Description, wow!

And so our primary tasks involve what? We’re to be preaching “the Word of God”, which includes teaching and sharing in helpful ways that make sense to the recipients; see Acts 2 for an example.

We’re also a people among whom “the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ’s own appointment.” We understand those to be the two holy sacraments found in The New Testament: baptism and communion.

Next comes this: “Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the church seeks to provide for the maintenance of worship, the education of believers, and the redemption of the world.” Any question about the inclusive and expansive nature of who we are, and who we are to be? In that one sentence are three massive reasons for our existence —

worship
education
redemption

— and now kaboom we’re off and running.

Questions immediately arise. Some trip us up. Some speed us along on our journey.

Sometimes our questions redirect us.

Sometimes our questions become arguments.

Sometimes our arguments become irreconcilable differences.

Usually, however, our Book of Discipline serves much the same purpose as The Rules of The Road, the book I study before renewing my driver’s license.
The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church was best defined for me by Nolan B. Harmon (ask me about him sometime) when he called it “our guidebook for getting along.” I love that: “our guidebook for getting along.”

It has our history in it.

It has our rules in it.

As has been said many times, it acknowledges our past and addresses our future.

By the grace of God, may we never forget what Proverbs 16:9 says: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”

And by the grace of God, under the guidance of The Holy Spirt, and in the community of all true believers under the Lordship of Christ, may our future be even brighter than the best moments of our past!

Amen?

(Oh, and there’s a sixth and highly unofficial book named by Bishop Beard that has also shaped us. If you know what it was, please don’t tell yet. If you don’t know that sixth book, keep checking back here; like on some reality tv shows, Monday will be the big reveal.)

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