Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
The season of Lent invites us, individually and collectively, to a deep assessment of and prayer filled reflection on our faithfulness and fruitfulness. At times, we use Lent to anticipate the coming of the resurrected Christ without taking the gift of these 40 days to also examine our faith; to intentionally concentrate on our faithful response as disciples. Lent is a journey we take with Christ and one another. It is a journey that helps us to focus on our discipleship formation beginning with the reminder of our shared humanity on Ash Wednesday; traveling through the days of searching and repentance to the eager anticipation of Palm Sunday, experiencing the solemn and sorrow filled journey to the cross on Good Friday, and then celebrating the empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
As we begin this Lenten journey, “we are reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the need we all have to renew our faith. We invite you, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.”
Why do we accept this invitation and enter this kind of journey? We enter this journey because we are called to reflect on how our faithful response to Christ bears fruit in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. As Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to bring us new life, we too are called to bring new life to our congregations, neighborhoods, and communities, called to live as resurrection people.
Our call to live as a resurrection people is especially important in these uncertain and anxious times. As our beloved United Methodist Church prepares for General Conference 2020, we know these practices of the Lenten journey will prepare our hearts, minds and spirits for whatever future God holds for the people of The United Methodist Church, and there is a future! While plans and legislation tend to consume our focus and tempt us from fully engaging in Christ’s mission, our God calls us to stay focused on our reason for being. No matter the result of General Conference 2020, Jesus will be Lord, and the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” will continue.
As we move towards our Lenten opportunity and General Conference, we invite you to join us in a deep season of fasting and prayer. We invite you to an even deeper listening of God and one another. As we engage in conversation and discernment together, may a deeper respect and love for one another permeate all that we think, say, and do. Together, let us reflect and build upon our faithfulness to God so that we might experience the joys of fruitfulness that come with the journey of discipleship. For even in the midst of our current wilderness, God’s desire is that we might bear fruit to whomever God places in our paths and wherever discipleship leads us.
So, let us travel this path together, allowing the fruit of the Spirit to be evident, knowing that if we do this, our future will be one where God’s people will not be shattered and bruised, but blessed and strengthened to be the community of faith God calls us to be. We, your NEJ bishops, united in love of God and one another, remain steadfast in providing spiritual leadership that unapologetically calls the Church to her mission and invites you to this faithful discipline. While there is much uncertainty in many things, Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us of God’s unfailing certainty – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Yours in servant leadership,
The Bishops of the Northeastern Jurisdiction