-Bishop Paul L. Leeland
The Lord’s Power Shall be Known to His Servants. Isaiah 66:14
(July 6, 2010) It was a small gesture; a small gesture that hopefully encouraged others.
My family and I recently vacationed on the Gulf Coast, and it was wonderful. We deliberately chose to vacation here to show our support for the families who live and work among these beaches. My children and grandchildren all came from North Carolina to join my wife, Janet, and I to experience some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Our grandchildren, while excited and thrilled to be enjoying the surf and sand, learned a valuable lesson: we are much more dependent upon one another than we realize.
Anxiety and despair continue to increase as the days mount without relief from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Many families are dependent on the income generated by tourist season and may not have several year’s worth of income saved for potential financial fallout from the spill. The sense of worry is palpable. The small monetary amount our family contributed during our vacation in the area was just that, a small amount. Yet, added to the small amount others are bringing into the area it can become so much more. And so much more is desperately needed.
As I think of how helpless I personally feel about the situation, I have discovered ways in which we can all respond to God’s call to truly be a community of faith.
First, I believe we have to acknowledge we have no control over what is happening, which does create a sense of helplessness. Yet, the voice of the Church needs to be raised in such a way that people do not equate helplessness with hopelessness. We are not hopeless.
One of the most publicized environmental tragedies of my life, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, can point us toward helpful and creative steps in moving forward. We understand there will be lingering issues related to stress, ongoing legal settlements, and long-term restoration plans. In the midst of all this we can truly be the Church. We can help our neighbors find healthy and constructive ways to deal with stress.
Second, our United Methodist Church can give support to caregivers providing aid to individuals within their respective communities. We can shoulder day-to-day burdens with those who may not have sufficient income to provide for themselves or their family. We can acknowledge the power of God in the midst of our struggles to provide grace through the people of God to offer hope and acts of charity, which will make a difference.
Finally, we who follow Christ must vow to turn conversations filled with worry and despair to hope: “But one of the things we can do is…,” “How I can help you is….,” “There is hope in Christ….” Together, we can shift the very real and painful worries of this world to insights of hopefulness and grace.
The scriptures remind us that when Jesus sent the 72 disciples ahead of him, they were skeptical about the ability Christ gave them to bestow peace, to cure the sick, and to survive among “wolves” like “lambs.” Nevertheless, Isaiah had promised “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.” When the 72 returned they were overwhelmed with joy and surprise at their own actions when they reported, “Even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
When we, like the 72, become witnesses of God’s presence, power and love, our hearts rejoice and Isaiah’s prophecy becomes visible as “the Lord’s power shall be known to His servants.”
We have already seen evidence of this style of leadership by Navarre United Methodist Church (Navarre, Fla.) and Point Washington United Methodist Church (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.) who invited others within their communities to enter into a season of prayer, information, and acts of encouragement. This is the Church. This is the United Methodist Church – a church linked with others in a web of relationships bringing hope and help. Each individual act, though small in itself, brings a mighty force for restoration when added to others.
This is our message. This is our work. The Lord’s power shall be known to His servants. Let the Church be the Church in this hour of need.