An Introduction from Bishop David Reed:
It will be my joy to welcome you to the 115th Council of the Diocese of West Texas in McAllen, February 21-23. And it will be a blessing to join with you in celebrating our life together and continuing the work our Lord has given us to do.
“Walk in love as Christ loved us” is our Council theme, as well as the Bible verse (from Ephesians) that will illumine and shape our mission and ministries in 2019. Throughout Council we will connect this passage to our Presiding Bishop’s call to the whole Church to engage–or re-engage–with “The Way of Love,” seven spiritual habits to strengthen our discipleship and help us do the work of the Kingdom of God.
In the first half of his short Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul describes the saving work of Jesus Christ in his incarnation, death and resurrection, and what that means for the Church’s identity and purpose. In the second half, he offers practical and ethical insights into what all that means for Christians in their life together and in their varied ministries. He writes, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:1-2)
To consider “walking in love” begins easily enough. Who wouldn’t want that? It brings to mind peaceful strolls, enlivening hikes, healthy exercise–with people we love or in happy solitude.
But “Walk in love” is followed by “as Christ loved us,” and so we need to consider the quality and the content of that love: what does Christ’s love look like? We believe that Christ loved (and loves) us completely, whole-heartedly and without crossing his fingers. That’s challenging. To love the difficult and annoying, to love those with whom we profoundly disagree, to love the unlovable is hard. To love someone (even those we love most) generously and selflessly may be harder still. Paul brings the verse (and his meaning) to a sharp point with his next words, “and gave himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.” For Paul, the deepest and truest expression of love is found in the Word-become-flesh, Jesus Christ, who embodies the love of God, and reveals the source and foundation of all love worthy of the name.
It’s worth remembering that this verse is often used as an “offertory sentence” on Sunday mornings, just before the offering is collected. It serves to remind us that our monetary offerings (and our offerings of time and talent) are intended to be self-offerings and express our thankfulness for the sacrificial love of Christ. That is, as members of Christ’s Body, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are drawn to participate in Christ’s life and love, for us and for the world.
The passage reminds us that all of our planning, organizing, budgeting and doing (at Council, in our churches and in our homes) are intended to be expressions of this love of God revealed in Jesus. To paraphrase Paul in First Corinthians, if the Church is not living and working with love, then we’re just making noise and killing time.
I think all of this fits in nicely with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s call to the Episcopal Church to take up the spiritual practices of “The Way of Love,” which recalls us to seven ancient habits (such as prayer, Bible study and good works) as a means for the Spirit to renew the Church and send us out in the name of Jesus.
Council is a busy time. We do a lot in 2 1/2 days. I am very mindful of, and thankful for, the generous offering of your time to the life and mission of your church and to the Diocese. My prayer is that all that we do together will embody and proclaim the extravagant and redemptive love of Jesus, and that the whole world may see us walking together in this love toward the Kingdom.