Can I get a witness?

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.’ So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”—Matthew 28:1-10

My friends, as people of faith, we are called to live into our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world every day. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many of our routines, and we all have spent time learning together about new and different ways to share in ministry and live in community for the sake of Christ.

No matter the circumstances, it is important for us to stay focused on who we are and whose we are as followers of Jesus Christ.

As United Methodists, we know that we are connected to our brothers and sisters through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ regardless of our physical proximity. We regularly partner in ministry with neighbors whom we may never physically meet around the world.

My prayer for each of you is that you will find comfort in God’s presence in your life and reflect God’s love and grace back out into the world through your thoughts, words and actions. Let us be in prayer together for all who are affected by this pandemic, for the medical professionals treating and caring for patients, and for those working diligently to ensure a healthier future for all of us.

Why do I pray? I pray so that I might come to know God more intimately. God has created us to be in fellowship and community with Him. I long to know God. I want to be able to discern God’s voice, to hear God speak to me clearly even in the midst of so much other noise of this world. And so, I spend time listening and sharing with the One who called us into being.

I pray.

What am I praying for? I am praying that God’s will might be made known to me. That God’s will is going to be done in the midst of all that we see and all that we do. And I am praying for the strength to persevere in doing God’s will and God’s work in mission and ministry. That’s what Jesus did.

Living a life of prayer leads to living a life at peace. At peace with yourself. At peace with the world. Moving out of the storm.

Lent is a time when we can step aside and reinforce a time of daily prayer. As we remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection of the one who has given us everything we need, we can make it a priority to live a life of prayer, actively seeking God’s will for our lives.

Jesus, who paraded into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, knowing already what lay between that moment of celebration and the time of resurrection, gives us the gift of hope. When we bring to Christ our fears, the hope of the resurrection is that this world is not just where Jesus died—this world is where Jesus lives.

May we live out this hope found in the resurrection by continuing to participate in the life of our churches in helpful ways. Here are some suggestions:

  • Volunteer to help your pastor stay in touch with homebound church members and others who might feel even more isolated during this time of “social distancing.”
  • Ask your pastor what you can do from home to support the church’s ministry.
  • Continue sending your financial contributions through online giving, by mailing a check to your church or by contacting your pastor for other options. Your giving makes possible the continued ministry and witness of your church in your community and beyond.
  • Follow the guidance of state and federal health officials (South Carolina DHEC and CDC).

Each day there is an opportunity to be for someone the Gospel that they may never otherwise hear. As sisters and brothers in Christ, let’s continue our kingdom work in making disciples for Christ and transforming our world together. Sustained by hope and our faith in God’s promises, we can all give of our time, talent, gifts, service and witness in helpful ways. We cannot avoid uncertainty, but let’s respond with faith rather than fear.

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