The theme for the diocese in 2018 is “Unity in the Love of Christ.” A good scripture verse to go with this theme might be John 13:35:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Unity, however, does not come to us by each of us agreeing with one another; our unity is found in the love of God in Christ.
Another scripture that comes to mind as we live out this theme is John 6:27:
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.
Prayer has the capacity to unify us in Christ beyond our differences so that we may be about God’s work in the world.
I recently read with interest an email from Bishop Larry Provenzano of the Diocese of Long Island, in which he invites that diocese to join him in a Covenant of Prayer. In the letter he notes that prayer is “the most effective way to change the tenor and combativeness of the world in which we live.” I agree with Bishop Provenzano and would like to make a similar invitation to the Diocese of Oregon to join me in prayer.
I suggest we begin in Lent and see where the Spirit leads. Beginning Ash Wednesday, I invite the people of the Diocese of Oregon to spend time each and every day in prayer on the theme of “Unity in the Love of Christ.”
As Bishop Provenzano puts it: “No cell phones, no computers, no TV or newspapers. Just each of us and Jesus as a way to help change the tone and tenor of the world that God has given into our care.”
The practice of sustained regular prayer is our best source of strength as we seek to live as disciples of Jesus in this most divided world. This is the food that “endures for eternal life,” especially in challenging times.
As the Rev. Brandon Filbert of St. Timothy’s, Salem said in an email to me the other day, “We cannot simply be against things in this world: we must be FOR God’s reign and be people of the divine ‘Yes’ to humanity in Christ.” Our prayers can change our relationship with God, with the people we care about, and all those we encounter daily.
So, let us be with and for God in focused, intentional daily prayer this Lent.
I invite parish clergy to help provide guidance and tools for this work because as clergy, prayer is something we know and care about deeply and something our vows call us to model to the whole Christian community.
A few suggestions on how to support this effort:
- add a note in the Sunday bulletin or other congregational communication explaining and inviting parishioners to participate in this covenant of prayer beginning at the Ash Wednesday liturgy
- Work a petition about this season of prayer into the Prayers of the People
- Make this prayer theme a focus of mid-week Eucharists during Lent
- Make this effort a part of the community’s intercessory prayer network
- Start a prayer group on the theme of living in the light and love of God rather than being conformed to the tenor of the age
- Provide teaching on ways to disconnect from the combative and negative culture around us and deepen our connections to God, leading to loving and just action in Christ’s Name
God’s call to each of us is to a life of love and gratitude. Prayer is one of the best ways to become more fully a person of love and gratitude. I look forward to praying with you this Lent.