This is truly one of those times that I don’t really have anything to say. Or maybe it is that I don’t really have any topic that is really in my mind today. So let me start here. Small town America also means small town rumors. I have had a number of people asking me or my husband if we are leaving. I can only guess that this rumor was started from one of my blog posts, which was also printed in the local newspaper, that I titled “Saying Goodbye.” If you go back and read that post you will notice that it was a goodbye message to some friends and church members who were moving. It is not us, at least not this time. As far as I know as of this moment we are not going anywhere this year. Although there is a slight possibility that this will change in the next month.
For those of you who are not familiar with the United Methodist system of pastoral itinerancy, let me try to explain a complicated process in a few words. United Methodist pastors are appointed to a local church (e.g., First United Methodist Church of Post) for one year at a time. During that year the pastor and the church’s staff/parish relations committee (basically the HR department) both have a chance to say whether they think the pastor should remain at the church or be moved. The Bishop and his or her cabinet (basically the pastor’s boss and advisors to the bishop) then make the decision whether to move the pastor or not. Usually the Bishop and cabinet abide by the pastor’s and staff/parish relations committee’s recommendations, especially when those recommendations agree. When they disagree, it is usually the pastor’s wishes that are given priority. This is not always the case as there could be a need for the pastor’s gifts and graces elsewhere or when the pastor truly is not a good fit for the congregation he or she is serving, but it is USUALLY the case. If the pastor and the staff/parish relations committee agree that the pastor should stay, nine times out of ten the bishop and cabinet will reappoint the pastor to the same church for the coming year. Pastor’s who are appointed to a new church then move the last week of June.
This year, as has been the case each of the last three years, the staff/parish relations committee and I have agreed that I should remain at First United Methodist Church of Post for the next appointment year. I have not heard anything from my boss or the Bishop indicating anything different. And since the end of the appointment year in nearly upon us, I am pretty confident that we will be in Post for at least another year.
This all brings me to the next point. It is a question really. Why are we so ready to believe rumors? Why is this the case especially when we are so often so quick to dismiss the true news? I don’t know that there is a good answer to this. Perhaps it is because the rumors have enough of a ring of truth to them to make them feasible. For example, I think it is well known that United Methodist pastors move often, so when I said goodbye people just jumped to conclusions without determining the facts. Perhaps it is because the rumor is so much more interesting than the truth. I remember the case of a young widower during my high school days. Rumors were all over my small town then that she was sleeping around because she had a lot of men in and out of her house in the months after her husband’s death. A juicy story perhaps, but the truth is those men were construction workers who were renovating a part of her house so she could move her hair salon there where she could work to support her children while watching them at the same time. Perhaps, and I think more often than not, we embrace the rumors because it makes us feel better about ourselves. If we are looking down on someone else for their mistakes, as the rumors would indicate, then our sins and mistakes don’t look so bad. We can deflect scrutiny from our own selves and go about our business with our sense of superiority still intact.
Whether you are spreading side or on the subject side, rumors can be hurtful. As Christians, we need to do better. God’s word tells us, “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness” (Exodus 23:1) and, “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2) Rumors are nothing other than false reports about somebody else. When we join in, either by listening to them or by repeating them, we fall under the categories of wicked and malicious instead of the gentle, courteous, loving people God created us to be.
So my word today, on a day when I have really nothing to say, is let’s try to stop rumors in their tracks. When we hear one coming, and we almost always do – it usually starts with “I heard” or “Have you heard” – stop it. Say something along the lines of, “I am not interested.” or “Have you checked the facts?” Before you start one, check the facts for yourself. Better yet don’t say anything. Let the person who is at the bottom of it all tell his or her truth the way they want it told to whom they want it told. Be more like Jesus and less like the world. Love people like you love yourself. Love people like Jesus loves you. Jesus died and rose again so you and I could know and speak the truth in love. So let’s make that our goal. Instead of hurting people, let’s learn to love them. And instead of talking about people, let’s learn, or relearn as the case may be, to talk to them.
That, friends, is all I have to say today.