FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN
With all the uncertainties and complications of this pandemic year, I am struck by the testimony of laity and clergy concerning how Philippians 4:11-13 is being fulfilled in their lives. Writing from prison, thanking the Philippians for the financial gift they have sent to him, the Apostle Paul says:
Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Here is what I am hearing and seeing in the South Georgia Conference:
First, we are being strengthened through a deeper experience of Christ Himself. I have lost track of the number of clergy and laity who have told me they have greatly expanded the time they devote to studying the Bible during the pandemic. The more they meditate on the Word the more they experience Christ’s presence with them. They begin praying the scriptures, not just reading them. Some have begun journaling. Christ strengthens us as we practice these and other spiritual disciplines. It is as if we in South Georgia are claiming for ourselves the resolve expressed by Sidney Lanier when he wrote in The Marshes of Glynn: “As the marsh hen secretly builds in the watery sod, I will build me a nest in the greatness of God.” Through the practice of solitude, silence, meditating on the Word, praying the Psalms, fasting, and abstinence, we daily build our nest in the greatness of God - the best place to live!
Second, we are being strengthened through a greater awareness of the Body of Christ — the Church. The interruption of in-person worship, Bible study, and fellowship has only served to intensify our recognition that church matters! As the Body and Bride of Christ, the Church is the big story of our lives. It extends farther back than nation or family. It looks forward to the new heaven and new earth of God’s eternal kingdom. And in the present moment the Church, both globally and locally, unites us as brothers and sisters in Christ. The connectional system is how we live out the New Testament vision of being Alive Together in Christ. During these past eight months, I have been able to participate in online worship services all over our conference: African-American, Hispanic, white, traditional, contemporary, blended. Technology gives us the opportunity to see with our own eyes the Body of Christ in all its many expressions. We are not alone; we are part of a worldwide family of Jesus-followers. Through the use of Zoom, Facebook, YouTube and the conference website, many of us have a sense of being more connected than ever. How beautiful is the Body of Christ!
Third, we are being strengthened through a renewed confidence in the Mission of Christ. We see with fresh eyes that following Jesus equips us to connect with the grief and loneliness many are experiencing due to the pandemic; the racism of which some are unaware while our brothers and sisters of color know it all too well; and the political polarization that we say we do not want but which so often we collude to keep in place. Hear the good news: we can be set free from these futile ways of living (1 Peter 1:18). That’s what Jesus does. It’s His mission. That is what the world needs. It is our reason for being. As Christians, we must not ask others to do that for which God has uniquely equipped us. Your community is hungry for a church that heals the sick in body and spirit; raises those dead in despair; casts out the demons of racism, sexism, and violence; and cleanses those who feel stigmatized like modern-day lepers. For those who have eyes to see, this is our moment. Let’s stop watching the news and start making the news - the Good News!
In the South Georgia Conference, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. How is Christ strengthening you today?
Alive Together at the Table,
R. Lawson Bryan