Back when I served as the Spiritual Director of the Southeastern Indiana Emmaus Community, we sometimes had (make that: frequently had
) incredibly long Board meetings. There was much to do and many decisions to make. And a perennial cause of our weariness was discussion of the minutiae of the rules: what we call “the model” each weekend Walk to Emmaus is supposed to follow.
Some people couldn’t understand the rules, while some understood them just fine, but simply didn’t want to follow them. “Why can’t we do it like this
?” they would ask, again and again. Making things more difficult was the wide variety of church backgrounds present among the Directors. Some of us were from denominations like The United Methodist Church, and were used to a lot of rules. Many others were Baptists, Charismatics, or members of Independent Christian churches, who didn’t have as many rules, or who were used to more leeway in interpreting the rules they had. And so it went, meeting after meeting.
Finally, as we were wrestling with some issue or another, upon which some members were inclined to be stubborn, someone said something about how we weren’t all
Methodists, to put up with all these rules. Our Lay Director, a lady from a charismatic background, spoke up. “I’m not used to all these rules, either," she said, "but I believe God blesses obedience.”
I have carried that word with me in all the years since. “I believe God blesses obedience.” Sometimes we like the rules we have to live under, and sometimes we don’t, but you can’t prosper by picking and choosing which rules you’ll follow and which you won’t. God blesses obedience.
Every United Methodist minister is asked several questions upon one’s admission to the Annual Conference, one of which is whether we will allow ourselves to be guided by this advice of John Wesley to his preachers: And do not mend our rules, but keep them -- not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.
Paul tells us (Philippians 2:5-11) that Christ showed us the way of obedience, and thus earned God’s blessing:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death –
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.