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On behalf of the entire Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, I greet you as we enter the Lenten Season – a season of reflection and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant resurrection on Easter.
The pattern of our Lenten journey was set by Jesus during his 40 days of solitude, fasting, prayer and testing in the Judean desert. This was an essential period of preparation for Jesus’ public ministry.
But, the goal of our Lenten journey was revealed by Jesus when he first foretold his disciples of his death and resurrection. Mark’s Gospel has Jesus saying: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)
What does it mean to lose one’s life for the sake of the gospel? It means to live the same purposeful life Jesus lived. It means to deny our preferences for the sake of Jesus’ kingdom purposes. It means to set aside our self-interest so that others may have a more abundant life. It means we are saved in order to participate in the salvation of others. It means our hearts will break for the very situations that break the heart of God.
Our beloved United Methodist Church is in a season of Lent. We are in an intense season of prayer, discernment and exploring what it means to lose one’s life for the sake of the gospel. The Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops have entered a critical time of reflection, prayer and fasting as we seek to listen deeply and expectantly to the Holy Spirit. We are confident God’s Spirit will guide the Commission and the Council in discerning where God is leading our church and how, through Christ’s grace, we will continue to do ministry and make disciples throughout the world.
We invite all United Methodists to join us in this Lenten reflection by focusing on the mission that Jesus Christ gave us at the end of his earthly ministry after he triumphantly overcame sin, hatred and death to give birth to a church grounded in the new covenant of love. Please join us in these Lenten disciplines of surrendering our lives to the way of the cross.
During this Lenten season, let us continue to live out our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Together, let us lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel. By doing so, we will honor the Lord’s Prayer that the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven and thereby glorify God.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church