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Living the Connection: The new year has opened! Rejoice and celebrate!

by | Jan 15, 2013 | Not In USe

Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

Bishop Bob Hoshibata is the resident bishop of the Phoenix Area of The United Methodist Church and provides leadership to The Desert Southwest Conference.

Bishop Bob Hoshibata is the resident bishop of the Phoenix Area of The United Methodist Church and provides leadership to The Desert Southwest Conference.

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!

This is a very traditional Japanese greeting for the new year. If my limited command of the language is correct, the phrase can be loosely translated: The new year has opened! Rejoice and celebrate!

More than just being a statement that the calendar has turned and a new year has arrived, the image of a year that has opened up appeals to my sense of optimism and hope. As we turn the calendar to the year 2013, the old year is behind us. And what a year it was!

Personally speaking, in 2012, our family experienced the great transition of our move to the Desert Southwest Conference. We packed our household, said farewell to family, friends, and colleagues and left behind the 8 years of ministry as the bishop of the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It was not an easy time of transition and I look back with a huge sigh of relief that the move is behind us!

2012 was also a year of many blessings! There were more moments of joy with family and friends than I can count! But along with the challenges, these many celebrations too are behind me. One chapter in my life, marked by the calendar year 2012, has closed.

So many events made 2012 an eventful one for you too. Our world was shattered by unspeakable acts of violence. Wars and civil unrest continued to take their toll around the globe. Natural disasters destroyed property, causing loss of countless human lives. Our nation was torn by the negative mudslinging that comes with contentious elections. So much that we may wish we never had to endure. Another chapter in your life, too, along with the calendar year 2012, has closed.

In the new year imagine for a moment that you are standing at an open gate that leads into a vast open space. There is no path leading anywhere from where you stand. No one has been there before you; you can choose to venture forth in any direction except you cannot go backwards. (Photo by Bishop Bob)

In the new year imagine for a moment that you are standing at an open gate that leads into a vast open space. There is no path leading anywhere from where you stand. No one has been there before you; you can choose to venture forth in any direction except you cannot go backwards. (Photo by Bishop Bob)

And now a new year has opened up. It looms before us, waiting for us to write the daily chapters of what we have done to utilize the time that God gives us to live our lives in thanksgiving for the gift of our days on this created earth. My hope is inspired by words of scripture that tell of ways God calls us to lead our lives. From the New Testament, the first letter to Peter we read these words: “… all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking.” (I Peter 3: 8-12)

The question I ponder at the opening of every new year is whether I will use my days in this new year to become a better person, a more productive member of the human community, and whether my words and actions will be pleasing to God as I seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

I pray that you and I will be inspired to model tender heart and humble mind as we uphold the memory of those whose lives were cut short or forever altered by senseless gun violence. Would that we could find the compassion and the moral strength to enact sensible gun laws and to give access to the mental health care that would make our world safer for all.

I pray that we will have the courage to engage in ministry that touches lives and really makes a lasting difference transforming the quality of life of persons in our communities.  I hope we do not lose the emphasis on extravagant hospitality that has become a hallmark of our Conference.

I pray that you and I will model what it means to be seekers of justice in our world and agents of the peace of the kingdom of God. And that justice and acceptance of all persons will be prevalent in the congregations where we worship and engage in ministry.

Imagine for a moment that you and I are standing at an open gate that leads into a vast open space. It may be an open field of green, lush grassy meadow. Or it may be an open southwest desert landscape of red rock, mesquite, and sand. Whichever landscape you imagine, there is no path leading anywhere from where you stand. No one has been there before you; you can choose to venture forth in any direction except you cannot go backwards. You must venture forward into the uncertain unknown.

Just as you stand at the gate and behold the vista that has opened before you, I invite you to look forward to the year 2013 with a spirit of hope for the best. Through our actions will we demonstrate that we Christians are people who demonstrate love for each other and for the world because we know the love of God through Jesus? That is what the Bible admonishes us to be and do!

I invite you to pray with me asking God to give us strength and resolve to work toward the fulfilment of the vision of peace and grace in this new year.  The new year has opened!  Let us rejoice and celebrate!

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!

Inorimasho! (Let’s pray!) Gracious and loving God, as we look at our lives and our world, we are thankful for the ways we have been blessed. We are grateful for your assurance that we are forgiven through your generous grace in Jesus Christ. The open year before us is a reminder of your enduring love and grace. Through you, each new year; indeed each new day is a gift of your forgiveness.  Through this gift of new opportunities you beckon us to lead lives that demonstrate our desire to “do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.” We pledge again to follow Jesus Christ and thank you in his precious name.  Amen!

In Christ’s shalom,
HoshibataSignature-1-300x90

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