A pastoral letter

The Nature of Grace: Our Lenten Journey

By the time of publication of this edition of the Messenger, the 2019 United Methodist General Conference will be underway. Meeting in St. Louis, General Conference comprises 864 delegates representing approximately 12 million United Methodists from around the world. These delegates will be seeking to discern and decide a future direction for our denomination on the matter of whether churches and clergy can be involved in weddings for same-sex couples. The matter is complex, and laden with historical and cultural valences of all sorts. The General Conference could yield a clear result, or a muddled one. In either case we as a congregation should be free to follow our own course, and at our own pace, in terms of making determinations about our direction forward. Spiritual discernment and decision on subjects of such importance deserve careful study, reflection, prayer, and discernment. The seasons of the church year are wiser than we are, and there seems to be something very wise about moving through the season of Lent at such a time as this. Lent, the church (continued on pg. 3)has always said, is at once a wilderness and “the springtime of the soul.” It is the season that is at once austere and ample—revealing the mystery and paradox of the ways in which God’s grace meets us in sustaining and nourishing ways particularly in the midst of disturbing or disheartening circumstances. The cross and empty tomb toward which the season of Lent leads us are the emblems of that transformative work of God in the world, in our lives, and in our life together.

“The Nature of Grace” is the theme we will reflect on through the forty-day season that leads from Ash Wednesday (March 6th) to Easter (April 21st). Our readings from the Bible in worship and study will reveal grace at work in those various stories and passages, at the same time opening up possibilities for grace working in our own various stories and passages.

Where is there dying and rising in your spiritual journey? In our congregation? In our denomination? Where is grace at work to reveal the springtime in the wilderness? I look forward to sharing with you these explorations in the coming season of Lent.

Grace and peace.