Blessed is the Church – The State of the Church

Few would characterize this past year as one of blessing. We came into 2020 off of a disastrous 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, which damaged our witness and caused untold suffering within our body. Barely into 2020, we were devastated by a global pandemic, which has killed millions, many in our own families, congregations and communities.

This was hardly a year of blessing – or perhaps God’s blessings come to us in unexpected even unprecedented ways. The Beatitudes opening the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1-14) is used as the framework for this year’s State of the Church Report. That is because they describe our identity as a church, not our circumstances. As one commentator put it, the Beatitudes “…declare the notae ecclesiae, the ‘marks of the church.’” They are the marks of a community of believers formed through the redemptive acts of Christ. They are the marks of a church, challenged by its own brokenness and the brokenness of the world, yet called to bring about salvation and hope.

This church is itself poor in spirit, even as it ministers to the poor in spirit. Surely 2020 has shown us our own spiritual poverty. In the face of COVID-19, we have had nothing to offer, from within ourselves alone, for the succor of the world. Neither have we had any self-generated source of power to solve the problems of our own church. That is because we are spiritually impoverished without the Triune God. When we understand and embrace this profound truth, Christ extends a blessing to us and empowers us to bless others.

To be Christ’s blessings, we also must see ourselves as the meek. Indeed, God calls the church to renounce the raw exercise of power in favor of the gentle meekness and humility of Christ. Only then, can we minister with and on behalf of the meek, sharing in sacrifice and mutual learning. And when we accept that we also mourn, even as we comfort those who mourn, we can be with people in the midst of devastating loss without resorting to self-serving and shallow explanations for suffering.

As a church, we are called to a vision of prophetic hope in which “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill made low…and the rough places a plain.”  Such a church hungers and thirsts for righteousness, laments the hurts of the world, and extends the blessing of mercy to the weak. Such a church craves the purity of heart that allows us to see God in the face of the other.

The full state of the Church Report is a website of information and stories from across the worldwide denomination.  You may read it here

Also, in the video “Blessed is the Church”, four of the church’s bishops, Fierro Harvey, Muyombo, McKee and Alsted tell how United Methodists, in spite of the trials of 2020, have been “salt and light” to the world, sharing God’s love to a suffering world. As they reflect on the celebrations and difficulties of the past year, they use Jesus’ beatitudes to frame our experiences and tell the story of how The United Methodist Church continues to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world....
Watch the video