The Season of Lent is fast approaching. The “Our Life Together” retreat for our clergy is from February 28 to March 1, where we will focus upon preparing our clergy to lead their congregations through Lent. Ash Wednesday is March 9, followed by the season of Lent, leading to Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter on April 24.
After the kind of winter we have had in Indiana, thinking about April sounds very enticing. Soon the days will be warmer and longer, spring break will come for many schools, and Easter will arrive in full flower and with sounds of “Christ is Risen!”
This year, I am inviting all of our pastors and churches to focus upon a common theme for Lent, “Called by God.” Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness following his baptism discerning God’s call for him. Jesus also began his ministry by calling individuals to be his disciples. It seems appropriate for us to claim this same focus during Lent.
I sent a letter about this to all of our pastors this past October, and I have heard from some who already had other plans for the Lenten Season – which is fine. In fact I was impressed some pastors were planning that far ahead. This is an invitation, not a mandate, but I do believe it is an important invitation, which goes beyond this year’s season of Lent. I believe that we need to strengthen our emphasis upon the fact that God is calling each of us and all of us, not just clergy, to be in ministry. Here is what I am hoping might happen:
- What if our pastors were to challenge each member of their congregation to spend the 40 days of Lent to focus on where and to what God is calling them? This is about laity and clergy, because all people are called by God by virtue of their baptism. There are as many ways to answer God’s call as there are individuals called.
- What if, this year, each congregation were to establish as their Lenten theme, “Called by God?” Sermon themes could include: 1) Called by God, 2) Called to Discipleship, 3) Called to Love, 4) Called to Forgive, 5) Called to Justice; 6) Called to Servant Ministry, 7) Called to Celebrate.
- What if each congregation was to introduce the language “Called by God” into all levels of ministry – children, youth and adults?
- What if there were a “called by God moment” in each worship service during which individuals could share to the congregation how God has called them and how they are living out their call?
It is my hope this emphasis could be more than a one-time focus. I hope it can become part of our Indiana United Methodist D.N.A. As always, I give thanks for the ministry you lead and pray God’s continued guidance on you and upon all of our United Methodist congregations.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church
“Making a difference in Indiana and around the world.”