THE RIVER FLOWS A WITNESS TO MAKING DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD Two parables of choices
Bishop Middleton addresses Susquehanna Annual Conference 2011 and sets the choices “Sometimes we don’t realize how high the stakes are!”
The following text in Deuteronomy 30:19-20 began Bishop Jane Allen Middleton’s address on June 7 to the second annual meeting of the new Susquehanna Conference:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life
and death, blessings and
curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and
length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
Middleton posed these questions to the body of United Methodists gathered in Hitchcock Arena at Messiah College: What does it mean to choose life as a disciple of Jesus Christ and as a leader of the church? In the life and ministry of your church? In the Susquehanna Conference? In the whole United Methodist Church? Her answer began with two parables.
A PARABLE OF LIFE In 1915 near the South Pole, 28 men
were huddled on an ice floe. They had set out over a year earlier to reach the South Pole where no one had ever gone. Now they knew they would never reach their goal. For nine months their ship, the Endurance, had been trapped in the shifting ice and would soon sink. The men went back to the ship to retrieve what supplies they could before it was too late. Then they made their plans for survival. Their leader, Ernest Shackleton, said that their only hope was to reach Paulet Island, some 350 miles away. Then they could sail from there. But to get there they would face some of the most formidable
terrain on earth.
Taking with them only the supplies they could carry on their backs they would have to drag three twenty-foot boats behind them. Shackleton
said to of weight, because his
crew: “You must leave behind everything that is not essential. You have to give up every ounce needless
very lives are at stake.” As they looked on in amazement, he pulled a handful of gold sovereigns out of his pocket and flung them onto the ice. He reached into another pocket and took out a gold watch and chain and dropped that onto the ice as well.
And then the men gasped as he took his most prized possession out of his coat. It was the inscribed Bible that Queen Alexandra had given him. He put that on the ice. He told them again, “Your very lives are at stake.” And so this whole team left almost all of their possessions, anything that wasn’t necessary for this journey, on the ice. And they turned toward that long trek hoping to reach Paulet Island.
PHOTO: SANDII PEIFFER Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK Victorious, Ernest Shackleton’s men reach South Georgia Island.
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Remains of the Northumberland House used by the men of the failed Sir John Franklin Expedition, Nunavut, Canada.
Every single person lived. They
understood that accomplishing their mission required that they be willing to give up all they valued but could no longer be useful for their survival. And they were willing to do whatever was necessary to choose life. What do we need to let go of in
order to choose life? What personal or congregational baggage? What are we willing to give up?
A PARABLE OF DEATH
In the 1840s Sir John Franklin led 140 people toward the North Pole. No one survived. Why?
The difference may have been what they were not willing to give up. This
party traveled on two ships with auxiliary steam engines. They knew that it would be a two-year journey, but they carried only enough coal to last twelve days. The ships were huge, and were completely filled with things. One ship had a 1,200 -volume library. Each ship had its own organ.
When the ships were locked in the ice,
the sailors set out hiking for help. Through the nearly two centuries since then, their frozen
bodies have been recovered,
several at a time. The corpses were loaded down with possessions – things like backgammon boards, tea sets, and a great amount of engraved sterling silverware. Even as they stared into the icy jaws of death, they could not bring themselves to leave their silverware behind on the ice.
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