As outgoing convener, Rev. Linda Jaymes addressed the Southeast Regional Commission at their March 24, 2015 gathering at Old Pine Presbyterian Church. Her thoughtful and moving comments are both challenging and encouraging. We share her words with you!
FROM THE OUTGOING CONVENER
I was dragged kicking and screaming into this position, but it has turned out to be a wonderful experience. I’ve made new friends; enjoyed great times of fellowship and worship with you and come to realize how precious you are as my colleagues in ministry. It has been a privilege to serve as your convener and I encourage all of you to get involved if you are ever asked to be part of the Leadership Team.
I want to thank you for coming out to our regional commission meetings and I especially want to thank the leadership team: Michael Smith, Shawn Hyska, Yvonne Rudolph, Julia Hill and Valeria Harvell. This team—along with those who served with us for the first year (Bill Golderer, Mike Pulsifer) have been the catalyst for putting together some great programs that have nurtured, encouraged and inspired all of us.
We may be the smallest region in the presbytery, but the opportunity to gather as a smaller group has been a great gift. I’m still terrible with remembering names, but I now have a much better understanding of who many of you are; where you are serving and some of the challenges and successes you have experienced in your various ministries.
I think that people who are committed to serving Jesus Christ need to be in community with each other, and I believe we have created that kind of community in our regional meetings—something that is very difficult to achieve at a presbytery meeting with 200-300 people, most of whom you may not know.
Since this is my last meeting as convener, I thought I would have the last word and share some thoughts about where we are as a presbytery, a denomination, and as Christians in general.
Many of you know where I stand in regard to my conservative theology and my involvement in various evangelical organizations within the presbytery and the denomination. It has been a long and frustrating journey as times have changed and both the nation and the Christian community in this country have become more and more polarized. But as I come closer and closer to retirement and look back on the last 30 years, I have started to question the wisdom of having spent so much of my time and energy arguing over issues and defending my stand on them.
This is not to say that the Holy Spirit has convinced me to change my mind about what I believe, but a couple of years ago I realized that I couldn’t name one person whose mind I had changed with all my arguments. In fact, those arguments only drove us farther and farther apart.
For years, I have said things like, “If I had written the Bible, I would have done it differently. But it wasn’t up to me…” and “We’re all going to be wrong about something.” And the more I thought about that I realized we would do better to spend our time and energy cultivating humility in our relationships with each other in the PCUSA and with other Christians regardless of their denomination. If we are all going to be wrong about something, I think it’s best for us to let God be the one to straighten each of us out in God’s own good time. So my new philosophy of ministry is to work together with anyone who loves Jesus, at least on the things we can agree on. That’s why I have friends in the PCA and various other denominations or non-denominations.
The truth is that ever since God called a people and made them his own, they have had a hard time understanding that they might be wrong about something. Scripture tells us:
16 The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.
24 So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.
26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. (Numbers 11)
Some of the elders Moses chose to help lead the people of Israel were distraught when two of their number were filled with God’s Spirit even though they didn’t go out to the tent of meeting along with the other elders. Joshua even told Moses to stop those two from prophesying. But Moses realized it was not his place to second-guess God, and if God was using those two men for his purposes, Moses was going to rejoice in it.
A thousand or so years later, God’s people still didn’t get it. Jesus’ disciples—even though they had a very close and intimate relationship with Jesus—were still arguing about who was in and who was out. They even argued over which one of them was the greatest. And they were very upset when someone they didn’t know—who wasn’t properly vetted by their group—had the nerve to do good works in Jesus’ name. The disciple, John, is very upset and declares,
49 “Master, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” 50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9)
I suspect the disciples were flabbergasted when Jesus rebuked them and made it clear that since those folks weren’t working against Him, they should be left alone.
And so here we are, some 2,000 years after that, still arguing over who is the greatest, who has it right; who should be allowed to serve Jesus, instead of leaving that to God–and using our time and energy to focus on what we do have in common; what we can agree on. And the most important thing we have in common is our love for the Lord Jesus, and that is one thing we will never be wrong about.
I have two grown sons and I agree with them on almost nothing. Nothing of importance anyway. Not religion. Not politics. Not child rearing. Not sex before marriage…you name it! But we have a wonderful relationship. I’m not going to disown them or tell them to go find a new family just because we don’t agree on a lot of things. These children are God’s gift to me, and I try to do everything in my power to focus on my love for them and the things that will keep us together. The bond of love we share with each other is stronger than all the things we don’t agree on.
So my opinion—for what it’s worth—is that God has put us together in families, churches, and presbyteries, for a reason, and we should consider each other as gifts from God. We shouldn’t just tolerate each other but love and embrace one another. That’s what Jesus did—and still does. He didn’t throw his disciples out of the family because they didn’t get things right. He may have been frustrated with them a great deal of the time, but He worked with them. He forgave them. He loved them…all the way to the end…as He loves us. And He was sad when those who were not far from the kingdom—even perfect strangers—walked away from Him.
It’s a new day in our presbytery—thank God!—and I think the Lord will be pleased with us if we approach our various ministries and each other with humility, compassion, and the kind of love Jesus modeled for us. If we will do that, I think we’ll have a better chance of extending God’s kingdom in this city and even beyond—and we’ll have a lot more fun with each other along the way. So treasure the relationships that have begun to grow within this regional commission and the presbytery. Stay involved—or get involved—and let’s see what God may yet do in us and in our churches and all the places in which we serve. Amen.
Rev. Linda Jaymes
March 24, 2015