I am so happy that “The Lord be with you…” was chosen as the theme for these pre-General Conference devotions. As a person who grew up in a church with absolutely no liturgical foundation, the phrase “The Lord be with you” was a new one for me when I started attending a United Methodist Church in college. Not only did I not know what “The Lord be with you” was supposed to mean, but I also did not know that one was expected to respond with, “And also with you.” Talk about confused. I am grateful to say that these phrases are now part and parcel of, not only my liturgical practice, but also of my theological practice.
When we say “The Lord be with you” during our Holy Communion liturgy, or as we pass the peace, or as we gently poke fun at the Star Wars inspired “May the Fourth be with you…” we are making a bold theological claim; namely, that the one with whom we are conversing, the one with whom we are engaging, the one we are looking at eye to eye, is a bearer of the Light of Christ and the grace of God. “The Lord be with you” is a verbal expression of what we believe; that in Christ, God became human, and we all participate in that incarnation. In this way, “The Lord be with you” is one of the most beautiful things that we can say to another person. And, when we are affirmed with “And also with you,” the circle of beauty is completed.
However, I have to admit, and confess, that sometimes I forget that “The Lord be with you” covers everyone. In my mind, I change the words to, “The Lord
might be with you…,” or “The Lord is
trying real hard to be with you…,” or even, when I’m at my worst, “The Lord
isn’t with you.” Forgive me, Lord.
I offer this confession in preparation for General Conference, knowing full well that some of the conversations that will take place in St. Louis, will be shaped by less than graceful versions of “The Lord be with you.” I also believe that most of our conversations with one another will be rooted in the depth of “The Lord be with you,” and that our hopes will be for the church to live out its deepest desire to Love God, ourselves, and our neighbor. In light of this, I offer this invitation. In the days leading up to General Conference, let us make it our practice to say “The Lord be with you,” to at least one other person each day. It is my hope that in taking on this spiritual discipline I might be drawn into a fuller understanding of the love of Christ and the grace of God.
The Lord be with you.