To the People of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, and to the ends of the earth, Fulfilling our charge to “To guard, transmit, teach, and proclaim … the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and … to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically” (BOD, 2016, ¶ 414.3), the bishops in the Western Jurisdiction will offer messages of faith each week of Lent, with the prayer that God will strengthen the Church for its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of dry bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”  – Ezekiel 34:1-5

Reflecting on theses passages of scripture from Ezekiel, I recall a personal incident that happened on a recent Sunday afternoon. Marilyn and I were fighting the crud that is going around, so we chose not to attend Sunday worship. Early afternoon, I gained enough energy, so I thought, to take a shower and dress for the remainder of the day. After completing my shower, I discovered I didn’t have enough energy to make the transit from the shower. Fear of falling overcame me. So, I made several attempts to connect with Marilyn, to no avail. No matter how loudly I called, she never responded to my calls.

Assuming Marilyn had gone for a short errand, I slowly sat on the floor of the shower and awaited her return. The wait seemed forever. When she finally checked on me, I discovered she was in the house all the time watching television in the sunroom. So, she attempted to lift me from being comfortably lodged in the shower. She found it impossible to remove me from the shower. The only recourse was to call 911. Within a few minutes, an emergency crew from the local fire station arrived, lifted me from the shower and placed me in our bed. As they collected their gear to leave, we expressed our deep gratitude for their service. Upon leaving they said, “If you need our services again, don’t hesitate to call.”

In this Season of Lent, Christians are re-tracing the footsteps of Jesus as he lived among us. Jesus was God’s gift of love and grace to all humanity.

In this scripture from Ezekiel, we encounter God’s spirit challenging the prophet Ezekiel to prophesy to the human dry bones and bring them to life again.

In my most recent incident in my shower, I came to the realization that one can experience separation from God and humanity through isolation and by being overcome with fear.

In this Season of Lent, I pray that each of us may be enabled and empowered to acknowledge our sense of separation and isolation from God and humanity. And, may we use this Season of Lent to hear again and afresh the Good News of God to each of us, saying, “If you need me, don’t hesitate to call.”

– Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, Retired


Photo of Ein Avdat (Hebrew: עין עבדת‎) in the Zin Valley of the Negev desert by Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0.