Gather in confidence, go forth and witness
FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN
How fortunate for us that Annual Conference falls between Ascension Day (May 30) and Pentecost (May 5). For Christians, that is an extremely important 10-day period. The Apostles’ Creed reminds us that after his resurrection Jesus “ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Ten days after his ascension, on the Jewish festival of Pentecost, Jesus sent the promised Holy Spirit upon the believers gathered in Jerusalem and the Christian church was born.
As we continue to participate in the process of discerning God’s future for the South Georgia Conference and for The United Methodist Church, let us draw on the spiritual wisdom that flows to us from the Ascension and Pentecost. The Ascension means Jesus Christ has been exalted above every authority on earth and in heaven. There is no problem, dilemma, or situation that is greater than Jesus Christ. Pentecost means we are Alive Together in Christ, not through our own ingenuity, but through the Holy Spirit that has been poured out upon us by the One who sits on the throne. This is the source of our confidence as children of God: Jesus reigns and has sent His Spirit to guide us. This is the same confidence in which the earliest Christians outlasted rejection and persecution. And it is the same confidence in which we gather in Columbus for the opening service on Ascension Sunday, June 2, and through which we shall go forth on Wednesday, June 5, to celebrate Pentecost the following Sunday.
Do you recall Jesus’ instructions to his disciples for that 10-day period? He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promise of the Father for “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Not only were they to be Alive Together in the World, Jesus now tells them they will be Alive Together in Witness. As we meet between Ascension and Pentecost let this be our theme: we gather to celebrate the specific ministries through which we are Alive Together in the World, then we go forth to be Alive Together in Witness in our own communities, in the South Georgia Conference, and to the ends of the earth.
I am asking us to be Alive Together in Witness in two specific ways: reclaim our passion for the salvation of the world and refocus our energies on redemptive relationships. Our God-given purpose is the salvation of the world; that is why we make disciples of Jesus Christ. God has given us the means to accomplish that purpose: changed lives (redemptive relationships). There will always be many other matters in our circle of concern. But I am asking us to recommit ourselves to living in our circle of influence by keeping the main thing the main thing: the salvation of the world through redemptive relationships lived out daily at street level in the South Georgia Conference.
Please read Gil Rendle’s book, “Quietly Courageous,” which offers practical guidance on how to be Alive Together in Witness in a changing world. What is the difference between our public mission and our private mission? What are the temptations of nostalgia, empathy, and weariness? How can we witness with courage and conviction in today’s rapidly changing world?
Alive Together in Christ,