Have you ever had a difficult neighbor? When Mr. Palmer moved into his new house, he and his neighbor got along just fine. They would smile and wave when they saw each other in the driveway. There was no fence between their yards, and they never dreamed that they would ever need one. The problem all started when Palmer’s children began stepping in dog droppings while they were playing in their own yard. The neighbor had two poodles, so one day Palmer carefully brought up the subject. The neighbor denied that the poodles were the culprits of the “doggie doo,” and before long the two neighbors spiraled downward into mutual antagonism. Droppings were thrown from yard to yard. Angry words were exchanged. Signs were posted. Eventually, the dogs disappeared, but the damage had been done.
Things were momentarily calm, until the next issue surfaced. One day Palmer received a letter from the hostile neighbor suggesting that the dead elm that sat on the property line between the two yards should be cut down. Palmer wasn’t too keen on the idea of splitting the costs involved, and ignored the letter. A few months later he and his wife heard the sound of a chain saw outside. They looked out their window and watched the dead elm on the lot line as it was sawn vertically down the middle, leaving half of the grotesque tree – Palmer’s half – standing on Palmer’s property! Palmer left it standing, where it stood as a symbol of the pettiness, craziness, and desolation that often goes along with unresolved conflict.
What a price to pay for such hostility! If only both neighbors had dealt with the conflict humbly, honestly, and out of love and consideration of one another, such damage to the neighborhood relationships might have been avoided. The Apostle Paul warned the congregation in Galatia that we human beings were prone to such silly behaviors, even when we have promised to work together for the greater mission. He wrote, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love, become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:13-15)
Sadly, the Church has always had some degree of conflict that does not get managed well, and then it smolders just under the surface. The United Methodist Church is embroiled in a conflict over human sexuality that has been smoldering for decades. It was so contentious at the 2016 General Conference the delegates decided to remove all issues around human sexuality from the agenda and come back in February, 2019 to deal with it. The “Commission on the Way Forward” was appointed and began to meet to make a recommendation on a way forward for the United Methodist Church. That recommendation was made in July, 2018. Our Iowa Bishop, Laurie Haller, is holding conversations in each district so that we can stay updated on what is happening as we approach the 2019 General Conference. There are two meetings close to Ames – I encourage you to attend one of them. One is Saturday, October 27th, 10-11:30am, at Asbury UMC in Webster City, and the other is Sunday, December 2nd, 2-3:30pm, at Ankeny First UMC. For more information, please go the www.iaumc.org. If you are interested in carpooling, please contact the church office.
Please continue to hold the United Methodist Church in your prayers.
Yours for the Journey,