In the midst of a long, gray, cold, snowy winter, it is good to think about spring and about the upcoming events in the Indiana Conference. I am especially eager for our Annual Conference Session this year, which comes in late May, and which will include some powerful presentations and moments of inspiration. What a list of speakers we have! Be sure to read more about Annual Conference in the rest of this issue.
Even more than spring, I look forward to seeing the many ways that God’s Kingdom is “springing forth” – as was stated so many centuries ago through the prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah 43:18-19 we hear God saying, “Don’t remember the prior things (a better translation is “don’t dwell on the past”), don’t ponder ancient history. Look! I am doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.”
It’s an amazing message of hope written to a people who were in captivity and longing for their past glories. Earlier verses in that chapter invited the people to remember all the ways God had been with them in the past – including references to the Exodus experience – but then the message turns to hope for the future. God is doing a new thing, says Isaiah, and it is springing forth in surprising ways and surprising desert-like places.
Can we see and perceive where God is at work? Or are we so enamored with the past that we can only look backwards? Can we see and celebrate the new things God is doing, or are we stuck in cynicism and despair?
Someone recently said to me, “This seems like the winter of our discontent, and I am so eager for spring to come and change things.” I also am eager for springtime weather, but I suspect that a new weather pattern is not what we need. We need to look with the eyes and faith of Isaiah to see and perceive where God is already at work in surprising places and among surprising people.
The Cabinet and Conference Directors have a practice of sharing with one another by email our “Glory Sightings” of churches and individuals who are doing amazing ministry. When I see a long list of emails in my Inbox, those marked “Glory Sighting” are ones I am eager to read. So many good things are happening among the United Methodist people of Indiana. And yet my email inbox also has messages of complaint, despair and cynicism from others who just don’t see any good happening at all. How sad.
I know we have problems (believe me, I know more about our problems than you can imagine), but I also see the ways that God’s love and grace is springing forth. I know that God has been with us in the past, but I also see how God is leading us into a new future.
As we move through Lent toward the Easter celebration of New Life in Christ, let this be a time of noticing that God’s Kingdom is indeed Springing Forth!
From Bishop Michael J. Coyner,
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
“Leadership for vibrant congregations making faithful disciples of Jesus Christ”
Bishop Coyner preached during the opening worship of Our Life Together Clergy Retreat Feb. 24 in Indianapolis. Read his sermon at www.inumc.org/olt.