Dec. 1, 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
On Dec. 3, we observe and celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. Some churches will light a candle representing hope. We light this candle of hope in a world where we are surrounded by fear, hopelessness, pain, desperation, hatred, and violence.
I am reminded of a powerful quote by Saint Augustine of Hippo: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are."
It is my prayer that as we light the candle of hope, its glow will help us to express our holy anger over the injustices that our society, world, and even churches continue to inflict upon the children of God because of fear, insecurity, selfishness, human ego, and pride within us. We can look to John the Baptist as a model of truth-telling with integrity and righteous anger.
It is our human tendency to speak, even when delivering the gospel message, in a way that is pleasing to our audience. However, to bring hope, we need to call out anything that degrades other human beings or suppresses the voices of the weak and marginalized.
Jesus expressed anger when he saw that the temple in Jerusalem had become the shopping mall of his time. Expressing this type of anger, in an effort to shed light in the midst of darkness, requires courage. May we be in prayer to our Creator God, so filled with Christ's love and empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we become a courageous Church and people of God addressing the injustice and evil in our world.
This fall, at most of the Bishop’s Days on the District, I asked our clergy and laity to write down their hopes for our Church.
As we enter the holy season of Advent, my hopes for the Church (people of God) are:
Not to be free to recite the Lord's Prayer in public places,
but for the courage to embody that prayer wherever it is.
Not to preach the Sermon on the Mount to believers,
but to be that sermon in every time, place, and circumstance.
Not for safety and survival for some distant future,
but for our present reality in our true identity
as God's reign on earth and heaven,
as the embodiment of Christ's love,
as the power of the Pentecost, the Spirit unbounded and unleashed,
as the Beloved community of healing, comfort, mercy, and peace.
Not to be persecuted for falsehood and hypocrisy,
but for the sake of righteousness.
This Sunday also marks Global Migration Sunday. The website https://umcmigration.org provides information on the migration crisis and the pain and suffering refugees face every day, as well as resources for how we can help.
As we begin Advent, may we be instruments of God’s hope to our immigrant brothers and sisters by praying, advocating, and supporting ministry for and with immigrants in our communities, nation, and world.
Bishop Bruce Ough has written a letter on behalf of the Council of Bishops encouraging churches to take a special offering on Global Migration Sunday. Additionally, as in previous years, I encourage you to set aside for charity 10 percent of the money you spend on Christmas decorations and gifts. Please consider using these funds to support the various immigration ministries of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), especially Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), which also has a chapter in our Conference.
As part of our Advent journey, as we observe the Global Migration Sunday, may this prayer* move us to light the candle of hope for others.
open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;
open my ears that I may hear their cries;
open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee. Amen.
Have a blessed Advent Season!
In Christ's love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
*Taken from Alan Paton, South Africa, 20th cent., titled For Courage to Do Justice, #456 in the United Methodist Hymnal, Nashville, TN, The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.