A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 40: 3-5
The Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church has a vision of becoming a “home for all God’s children, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation.” Some have called us disobedient. Others claim that we are prophets for recognizing LGBTQ+ persons as beloved children of God, blessing their marriages and ordaining them for ministry long before most of the church. LGBTQ+ inclusion is just one way we in the West have sought to set the table for all God’s children. The Western Jurisdiction embraces immigrants from around the world and has consecrated many “first bishops:” Wilbur Choy, Chinese American; Roy Sano, Japanese American; Elias Galvan, Hispanic American; Leontyne Kelly, Black woman; Minerva Carcaño, Hispanic American woman; and Karen Oliveto, first bishop in a committed, loving same-gender marriage.
United Methodist leaders in the Western Jurisdiction embrace John Wesley’s plea that we “be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion.” We are dedicating a year to noticing, naming and celebrating the variety of ministries “Where Love Lives” – not because we have a corner on the love market, but because love looks different in every place.
Let’s start by seeing where love lives in the extraordinary details of the Christmas story:
Love lives as a homeless couple, weary after a long day of travel, finds rest in an animal shed.
Love lives as this exhausted couple welcomes the untimely birth of their baby and lays him in a manger.
Love lives when a star shines in the night sky or a song spills from heaven – signs that a new and holy thing is happening.
Love lives where shepherd and sojourners show up in the night, after seeing, wondering and following these signs of hope.
The Christmas story shows us that where love lives, things happen that you never thought possible. Just as God was born in Jesus, God can dwell in us, too, as we grow to love as wondrously as God loves, as extravagantly as Jesus loves our neighbors, strangers, and those we think of as enemies. This is very good news when people live in the shadow of death and under the yoke of oppression. Watch for Where Love Lives.
Love lives where a grandma lays her sweater on the shoulders of a sleeping stranger on a chilly bus.
Love lives where a caregiver holds a smartphone or tablet to connect a dying patient with a loved one.
Love lives when a local church welcomes strangers, widows and orphans seeking safety.
Love lives when people who are sorting out their sexuality and identity have a place at the table of faith.
Love lives where Christians live their baptismal promise to ‘resist evil, injustice, & oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.’
Love lives when a passerby tapes a violent, racist atrocity on her phone for the world to witness. Love lives in the anguished cry for justice and love.
Love lives when a church offers space for people evacuated from wildfires to store their belongings, or board their pets.
Love lives when any of us find our hardened hearts open and ready to heal a broken relationship.
May Christ be born this dark Christmas. I pray that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area
Throughout the month of December, the Greater Northwest Area will be sharing videos, stories and other resources for local church and ministry settings across the Western Jurisdiction to use on social media, in online worship, group discussion and more on the topic of “Where Love Lives: Seeking to be God’s light in the World.”
We will be sharing stories, poetry and other resources that speak to the Advent message of God’s love living among us today – calling us to care for our neighbors, seek justice, dismantle racism, fight against a pandemic and committing ourselves to so many other acts of love in Jesus’ name.
Resources will be linked to either westernjurisdictionumc.org or www.greaternw.org as well as being shared on the various websites, social media channels and newsletters from the conferences which make up the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.