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Photo by Farris Mohammed on Unsplash

Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

Have you ever felt that you were in a hopeless situation? There are moments when we look at all the many roadblocks before us and wonder how we will be able to accomplish all that must be done. Whether it is tending to relationships, the challenges of raising or caring for loved ones, facing the strain of economic hardship, navigating school or work from home situations, confronting issues of injustice, or addressing barriers to our spiritual or mental wholeness, we feel burdened and overwhelmed. Perhaps the demands of daily living are piling up and we feel that our “plate is too full,” rendering us without hope.

The prophet Jeremiah would understand these moments of hopelessness. Speaking to people who have been exiled from their homeland, experiencing separation and despair, Jeremiah was called by God to proclaim a message of encouragement and hope:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NRSV)

We also yearn for words of hope. As we face the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, striving to strengthen our economy, and dealing with a continuing time of political unrest, our spirits could easily sink in despair were it not for our faith in God.

Yet, God pledges that we will never be alone assuring us that we travel life’s journey with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Like a gentle breeze, God’s Spirit may be almost imperceptible, barely noticeable. At other times, like the mighty rush of the Pentecost winds, God is very real and present. God promises us we will never be without that Holy Presence which manifests itself in unique and meaningful ways.

Stories of individuals who are doing incredible deeds of love and kindness toward others give me hope. Stories of young people finding ways to raise funds or collect items to assist those who are struggling touch our hearts. Strangers reaching out to strangers in acts of generosity remind us that there is innate goodness in the human heart. There is reason to be hopeful and some ways we called to participate in this practice of human kindness could be to:

  • Say positive things that share joy and hope;
  • Affirm others’ gifts and strengths, rather than tearing each other apart;
  • Open doors to caring relationships, instead of shutting doors to others;
  • Speak the truth as you know it, recognizing others’ truth may be different than yours;
  • Pray for others to find peace and healing, rather than creating unhappiness and conflict;
  • Share when you see someone in need, instead of hoarding more for yourself.

We rejoice that the scientific world is helping us better manage the COVID-19 pandemic as vaccines are gradually made available and we should make every effort to get vaccinated as soon as it is possible to do so. We pray for the effectiveness of the vaccines and all the while, continue to commit ourselves to safety practices that lower the rate of transmission: correctly wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding crowds, staying home if we are not feeling well.

In your prayers of thanksgiving this month, be sure to . . . Give thanks for the frontline workers who continue to plant and harvest, tend to the farms and waters so that we can eat . . . Support with appreciation those who deliver goods to the grocery or retail stores or make a delivery to your doorstep . . . Give thanks for the teachers who give extra time and energy to do their work in new and difficult circumstances . .  Hold tightly in prayer all medical personnel and mental health counselors for their dedication and sacrificial service . . . and give thanks for pastors who care for their congregations and communities and put themselves in positions of risk so that they can offer care and comfort . . . and for the laity of this Conference whose faith and dedication are keeping our churches alive with God’s spirit.

God accompanies us in our life’s journey. We must not lose heart. God is with us in every moment of every day; this is God’s gracious promise to us. With this reassurance, we can look with hope toward the future. As we are able, let us heed the wisdom of the second letter to the Corinthians:

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NRSV)

Let us keep hope alive as we face the future!

In Christ,
Bishop Bob

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