I read a story in the fascinating book about Chinese Christianity God is Red. The story is of an old nun in an obscure province. She had been run out of her church by the Communists and subjected to all manner of beatings, starvings, and humiliations over the decades. In recent years, when the anti-religion laws eased, she began a campaign to have the government return the church buildings to the church. Her campaign culminated in a public hunger strike with her 90-year-old aunt on the steps of the government building.
At last, the government relented. The nun and her aunt were able to move back into the church housing and return worship to the little church. An interviewer asked her what it was like to live again in the church property.
“It is not my church,” she said. “We only keep it for the Lord.”
It is a parable with deep significance for the United Methodist Church. You and I do not own the church. It is not our church. It is the Lord’s. We only keep it for him. Lately, we’ve not been very good stewards. But even if the world takes away the church like the Communist government, perhaps we will have enough tough old ladies around to hang on through the dark days and claim back the Lord’s church again.