Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Methodists Shield the Children!"

Image by Paul Jeffrey, KairosPhotos
The cross and flame symbol has become a powerful, radical symbol in a number of places, including Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia, and the Middle East. There is news footage from many war-torn, crisis locations that shows cross-and-flame graffiti on walls and shot-up buildings and doorposts. The representations of the cross and flame range from crude scratches to large, colorful graffiti. But in all of these disparate, desperate places, the Methodist cross and flame has become a powerful, grass roots, almost underground symbol.

The reason this symbol has become so important to so many is that Methodists are covering children…literally. In the midst of gunfire and bomb blasts, Methodists in the world’s most chaotic and dangerous places have taken it upon themselves to shield children from danger. These Methodists literally stop and cover these helpless, vulnerable innocents with their own bodies, absorbing the bullets or shrapnel into themselves and saving the children. The reports have spread as the cross and flame symbol has spread. When asked what the increasingly ubiquitous cross and flame symbol means, locals report, “It means the Methodists shield the helpless children!”

This was a dream I had last night. It was one of those vivid, layered dreams, in which the images and reports flashed quickly like news footage, yet I was actually in these places as it happened. I saw the graffitied cross and flame. I saw the Methodists covering children with their own bodies. I shared the reports with my fellow American Methodists. I even considered deeply whether or not I would be able to put myself in harm’s way and absorb bullets and shrapnel. I decided I must…we all must. Then I woke up.

It was the middle of the night and I lay there thinking about this dream. I imagined the power of this possibility. What if we Methodists (of course it goes for all Christian tribes, but my dream was about my own), were known, not for apathy or infighting or hypocrisy or for our liberal or conservative power agendas and allegiances, but as protectors of the vulnerable. Of course we aren’t necessarily going to go around throwing ourselves on children and absorbing bullets—that’s the stuff of dreams. But what about the real, bigger picture—the widows and orphans, the oppressed and exploited, the voiceless ones caught in the crossfire?

“When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? …When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean… Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Is. 1:12, 15-17).

What if the cross and flame began to be seen as a representation of people who truly embody the love of the God who made himself vulnerable, who was crucified to save the helpless, and who is now risen and ascended to offer hope and new life to all. What if it represented people who embody the illuminating, holy presence of God dwelling in the midst of darkness and war and terror and harm, the God who covers the exposed and absorbs the shrapnel.

“Methodists shield the helpless children!” Must it only be the stuff of dreams? Come now, let us reason together… (Is. 1:18)

1 comment:

Cynthia Astle said...

Robert, this is an excellent essay. I'd like to repost it on United Methodist Insight, Please reply to Thanks!
Cynthia Astle

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