Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reading The Discipline

Last week, in a fit of desperation, I actually turned to The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (our rules of religion and polity) for an answer to a question posed by a parishioner.  I did find the answer . . . but I also realized that I have a collection of these Disciplines on my shelf--some dating back to the late 1880's, when the Discipline was much thinner and pastors actually read it as devotional material.  Now, we commonly read the Discipline to rule on church matters, or to win arguments, or to find a cure when we are suffering from insomnia.

Still, I'm glad we have the Discipline . . . it's a book that rather sets us apart and gives us Methodists an identity (or sorts) that other Christians don't have (and maybe don't crave, either).  I'm always glad to poke a little fun at the Discipline, too.  Kind of reminds me of the old school marm I had in the second grade who used to rap my knuckles with a ruler . . . .

The Discipline

Years ago when Methodists
Agreed to flee from sin
The Wesley brothers wrote a tract
They called The Discipline.

It was revised and edited
Each quadrennium:
A polity and rules of faith
Expressed in Discipline.

And as this book has thickened twice
And tripled yet again
It gets more difficult each year
To read The Discipline.

Sometimes we kick it to the curb
Or bash our next-of-kin
Reciting passages to prove
We know the Discipline.

But now most read it as a guide
(Perhaps with lukewarm gin)
And sample it in sips and starts
Without the discipline

To read full passages without
The benefit of spin.
It's Methodism by the book:
Debating Discipline.

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