Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar. A photo by Mike Dubose/UMNS.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we continue our journey in the Lenten season, on the fourth Sunday of Lent we celebrate the ministry of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), through our prayers, gifts, and other support.
In a recent issue of the New World Outlook, Melissa Hinnen, writes, “In the midst of war and destruction UMCOR serves as a “voice of conscience among Methodists to act in the relief of human suffering without distinction of race, color or creed’. So said Bishop Herbert Welch at the General Conference of the Methodist Church on April 26, 1940. With the outbreak of World War II, Bishop Welch called on the General Conference to respond to the needs of human suffering around the world. On June 2, 1940, Methodists observed a day of prayer and sacrifice, with the offering being used to support the newly formed Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief (MCOR)” (Melissa Hinnen, “UMCOR 70 Years of Hope”, New World Outlook, January/February 2010, p.14).
Later, in 1972, the name of the MCOR (Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief) was changed to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief.) As we reflect on the ministry and mission of UMCOR on the fourth Sunday of Lent the gospel reading for the day challenges us to reflect on the parable of the prodigal son. Luke writes, “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines compassion as, “Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” Elsewhere, in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, referring to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Mark writes, “... he had compassion for them” (Mark 6:34).
As we celebrate the ministry of UMCOR, particularly as we journey under the shadow of the Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the larger question we need to ask is “Am I a compassionate Christian?” Christians not only make themselves aware of the suffering of the children of God but also make every effort to relieve it.
The compassionate spirit of Jesus Christ challenged the disciples to respond by feeding thousands of people who came to hear Jesus.
The compassionate spirit of the father in the parable of the prodigal son nudged him to run after the needs of a son who was approaching.
The compassionate spirit of Bishop Welch energized the General Conference of our denomination to respond to the “needs of the human suffering around the world.”
Today, the ministry of UMCOR takes us to places where we cannot go ourselves in times of hurt and suffering. Though many of us were not there in person to relieve the pain and suffering of the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti, we were there in spirit and resources through the ministry and mission of UMCOR.
Though we take an offering for the ministry and mission of UMCOR through One Great Hour of Sharing on the fourth Sunday during Lent, UMCOR is in ministry on our behalf 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the United States of America and around the world.
May God enable all of us to call for self-examination and to raise a question, “Do we have the compassionate spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in us?”
May we all experience a blessed and spiritual Lenten season.
In Christ’s love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar,
Greater New Jersey United Methodist Conference
View more of Bishop Devadhar’s messages on The Relay Online