I, as a retired elder of the Rocky Mountain Conference (Denver) have received
the Advent Message; "Real Christian Presence", from Bishop Elaine Stanovsky,
the Bishop of the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone United Methodist
There are words in her message that have compelled me to remember a term
associated with Jazz Music; "Riff". In Jazz, the word is descriptive of "a pattern
of notes in a song, often influenced by the preceding notes." A non-Jazz use of
the term might use this as a definition; "comments on a particular subject". Both
of these definitions inform my Advent Message.
Bishop Stanovsky writes;
"I wonder where will we see the real presence of God this season - what
star wlll guide us?"
I have said and written before, that my 57 years of ministry in the Methodist/United
Methodist Church, were shaped and formed by my participation in the Civil Rights
Movement. I found as much or more of "the real presence of God" in "The Movement", as I did within the Church.
I left a national Methodist meeting in Chicago to board a train with persons whom
I did not know to attend the 1963 March on Washington. In 1964 during "Mississippi
Freedom Summer", I traveled to Palmer's Crossing, Mississippi to participate in
voter education and registration. And, When Martin Luther King issued a call
for religious leaders to come to Selma in 1965 on the Tuesday following "Bloody
Sunday", I left Boston where I was then a Pastor and went to Selma.
I cannot describe in physical terms "the star" that guided me to those places to participate in these history-making events. But, I can testify without a doubt that
I felt and saw, "the real presence of God" at the March on Washington, in
Mississippi, and in the Selma to Montgomery March.
Some years ago, I remember reading that when E. Stanley Jones, the Missionary
whose ministry is so well known met Mahatma Gandhi and asked him what he
thought about Christ, Gandhi said something like this; "I like your Christ. I do
not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." I have been unable
to authenticate this quotation, but these words attributed to Gandhi, are appropriate
I believe, for Advent 2013.
I believe that God is "very present" in those places where there is inclusion, and
not-so-present when language and legislation, excludes. It was through legislation,
court decisions and executive orders that racial inclusion triumphed over racial
exclusion. And, as we observe Advent 2013, we must note that while the United
Methodist Church continues not to affirm same sex unions and marriages, nor
the United Methodist clergy who celebrate those unions and marriages, 16 states
and the District of Columbia legally affirm same sex marriages.
Soul Singer, Marvin Gaye, once asked in a song, "What's Going On?"
Could it be that "the real presence of God" is "going on" more re; marriage
equality in those states and DC, than within the United Methodist Church?
The God who comes to us in Jesus, during Advent, I believe, is pleased when
the U.S. Constitution guides states to do, what the Church with its Bible is
sometimes unwilling or slow to do.
"Hail to the Lord's Anointed, great Davd's greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, his reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captives free;
to take away transgression, and rule in equity."
(United Methodist Hymnal; # 203)
Gilbert H. Caldwell
Retired Elder, Rocky Mountain Conference