Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lenten journey is more than 'following'

One Great Hour of Sharing is March 14, 2010.

March 1, 2010

Dear sisters and brothers,

As the season of Lent continues, we are confronted daily with the journey Jesus makes to Jerusalem and the Cross. We read and ponder the text recorded in three of the Gospels: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, repeated at Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23) The “following” part we have incorporated into our mission statement, and have encouraged from pulpit to classroom. Unfortunately, we have almost made it sound easy, like a game of follow the leader. The “denying” and “taking up” parts are another matter. We would just as soon skip those, but that is precisely what confronts us as Lent unfolds.

Just as we have invested ourselves, our time, and some of our resources in an overwhelming response to the earthquake in Haiti, another one strikes. This time it strikes Chile, and this time of even stronger magnitude than the January quake that devastated so much and took the lives of so many in Haiti. One is left wondering how much more we can endure; how much more sacrificing and sharing will be needed; how many more disasters are yet to be. And each time, our desire, our commitment, and our passion for following Jesus is put to the test. Each time we are called upon to share the burden, the pain and suffering of so many, with each picture telling yet another story.

Once again, we United Methodist Christians in the Western North Carolina Conference will, I am confident, respond with generosity and prayers. Once again, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will respond with long-term assistance. Already UMCOR is on the scene working side-by-side and hand-in-hand with our partner organizations, Iglesia Metodista de Chile,  
Ministerio Social Metodista, and Equip Metodista de Accio n Humanitaria. Our conference Web site ( will have updated information on our response, as well as information about making donations either through the Conference Treasurer’s Office or directly to The Advance (#3021178).

In the midst of these disasters, we are also approaching the annual Sunday known as One Great Hour of Sharing. On the Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 14), we will once again be invited to share in this special offering that generates support for our on-going work in response to suffering throughout the world. I urge every church across our conference to receive this offering, along with our gifts for the specific crises in Haiti and Chile. As I travel across our area, I am constantly inspired by and grateful for the wonderful way that you are engaged in mission projects locally and around the world. I hope that your generosity and compassion combine for an overflowing offering to assist those who are hurting.

All of which brings me back to where I started, the “denying” and “taking up” Gospel references. To make sacrifices on behalf of others means that we who have been blessed in many ways will have to adjust our own ways of living. Perhaps we will have to deny ourselves that extra purchase or additional meal out; or, perhaps we will have to make a sacrificial gift that stretches us; or, perhaps we will have to trust God deeper. Following Jesus was never intended to be a smooth highway, without challenging moments along the way. But it is the way! 

by Larry M. Goodpaster, Bishop, Western North Carolina Conference

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