Dec. 31, 2015
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we celebrate the arrival of 2016, I recall with gratitude that I began 2015 with a group of teenagers from the Northeastern United States, fellow bishops, and other lay and clergy leaders in the city of Bangalore, India.
Some members of the team preached and others participated in the Holy Communion services as we greeted 2015 in churches from both the Methodist tradition and the Church of South India, a united church consisting of Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and British Methodists.
Everyone on the team, especially the youth, was impressed, not only for the opportunity to partake in the Holy Communion Service, but also to see sanctuaries filled to capacity on New Year’s Eve. Some of the youth wondered why it was important for families to be in prayer, reflection, and taking part in the Holy Communion Service instead of being at parties and New Year’s celebrations.
The answer is simple: Like making resolutions, it is also important for people to be at the altar, thanking God for the blessings of the past year, asking for forgiveness for our shortcomings, and making peace with our Creator and one another.
It is also a time for discernment and taking stock of our own earthly lives as Christian pilgrims and asking God to lead us as we join in the extension work of the Reign of God in our world as disciples of Christ, seeking to be led by the Holy Spirit and not by our own mental and physical devices and drives.
Though all of us will probably spend time this month looking both backward and forward, may I encourage us to reflect on one more thing? I want us to concentrate on and pray to God to show us the gifts placed in each and every one of us. May we not only ask how we can use them for the Glory of God, but also for the extension of the Reign of God in our communities, nation, and world.
Some of us may wonder if we have made any difference in our communities or world. We may worry that we have wasted our gifts and graces or even doubt we have any gifts at all. To encourage you, may I share with you a testimony of one of the great evangelists of the last century, Dr. E. Stanley Jones, who wrote:
“I thought my book Mahatma Gandhi An Interpretation was a failure. It did not seem to dent the Western world with its emphasis on armaments. But when I saw Dr. Martin Luther King, he said: ‘It was your book on Gandhi that gave me my first inkling of nonviolent non-cooperation. Here, I said to myself, is the way for the Negro to achieve his freedom. We will turn this whole movement from violence to nonviolence. We will match our capacity to suffer against the other’s capacity to inflict the suffering, our soul force against his physical force; and we will wear our opponents down with goodwill.’ ‘Then my book was not a failure,’ I replied. ‘No, if we can keep the movement nonviolent,’ he answered.” (E. Stanley Jones, Song of Ascents, Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, pp. 259-60).
I share this quote because we often second guess our gifts and graces with questions such as, “Am I making a difference?” or “Am I effective?”
In moments like these, may we turn to God in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for reassurance and encouragement. May we be inspired by the words of Jesus, as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson, “Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 11:29)
As Pentecost people, may we each constantly pray to God for the Holy Spirit to lead us, and not rely on our own self-centered mental GPS. May this be our resolution – on New Year’s Eve and always.
Prema joins me in wishing you and your loved ones a happy, blessed and joyful New Year.
In Christ’s love,