Advent message from the Commission on a Way Forward

December 7, 2016

Dear Friends in Christ, It is Advent, the season of expectation, preparation, and new birth.  This Advent season seems more poignant this year than in years past in the midst of beginning the work with the Commission on a Way Forward. The church is in a high state of expectation, similar to the time of John the Baptist when expectant people flocked to the Jordan for John’s message of repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sin (Matthew 3).  Expectant people experienced in the strange and unusual presence and message of John what they perceived as a divine intersection.  They listened as John bore witness to the light and life that was in the midst of them, but not yet fully known.  He told them that the movement they were experiencing was not about him or about them, but about someone coming after him that would baptize them with the Spirit and with fire.  This judgment was not so much about what they had done right or wrong, as God's desire to get them into alignment with the coming of Jesus.  This baptism would lead to new life and they needed to be ready. People are expectantly waiting, preparing for the new thing, the new life that God will bring through the church today.  The external cleansing and the inner fire come together to wash and purge us of our self-righteousness and cynicism, prejudice and apathy.  Again, in this season, we need to prepare, and to be expectantly ready for God’s movement, Christ’s new birth in our hearts and in the life of the church in this time and within our global context. The members of the Commission and its moderators are in a time of preparation and we are expectant.  We are seeking the arrival, emergence, appearance of Christ’s presence and the direction, movement of God’s Spirit and fire among us in a new way.  Visas are in process.  Meeting locations are being set. Conversations about collaboration are taking place.  “Praying our way forward” is helping set the ground work not only for the commission, but the work that each of us will need to do in order to perceive and ultimately receive the new birth that Christ seeks to bring to our present as well as our future. The Commission will come together by conference call in about a week primarily to pray.  Each of the Commission members will spend time sharing prayer for our process.  What prayers are you writing and sharing as we seek to bear witness to the movement of God’s Spirit among us?  The members of the Commission are each being asked to share a scripture that will guide the work of the Commission individually and corporately.  What scripture are you meditating on, using to guide the examination and preparation for the new birth of Christ in your life and in the life of The United Methodist Church? People of faith, God is here and God is searching us out (Psalm 139) so that our Savior may be seen and heard and touched through us.  God is here and searching us out so that others, as well as we ourselves, might be raised from struggle and discord to a new way and a new life! The God who is light in the midst of shadow, the God who shows love and destroys hate, the God who searches without end, the God who overcomes death with life, the God whose Son is working to bring peace through us, this God is with us (Matthew 1. 23) in the work of the Commission and in our preparation for Christ to be born anew through us and in the ministry and mission of The United Methodist Church! In this Advent season, there is no better time for us to allow Christ to be born anew in each of us!  As we allow Christ to be reborn in us, God’s Spirit will fill us in ways that we can be the presence of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, to a world that desperately needs to see and hear Jesus!  Our prayer is that each of us will intentionally search for and prepare for Christ to be born anew in us, so that together, we might be the Body of Christ that brings God’s life, hope, love, joy and peace to all people, to the nations to which Christ commissioned his disciples to go! Bishop David Yemba Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball Bishop Ken Carter