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Notes from the Lay Leader - January '23

(adapted from United Methodist Communications):

Isaiah 1:17 (NIV): Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Jan. 18-25 marks the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This annual observance, sponsored jointly by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity since 1968, invites all Christians everywhere to remember one another in prayer and strengthen the bonds of love and mutual mission we share in Jesus Christ. 

The Week of Prayer lasts eight full days. The number eight is important in the Christian understanding of salvation history. The resurrection of Jesus on Sunday marks that day as the “eighth day of creation” and the first of the new creation. Many baptismal pools and fonts have eight sides because in baptism we are buried with Christ in his death and raised with him to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). The eight days of prayer across all our churches reflects our confidence in our Risen Lord to make us one.

The theme of the observance for 2023 is “Do good; seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17).

Isaiah taught that God requires righteousness and justice from all of us, all the time and in all spheres of life. Isaiah challenged God’s people in his day to learn to do good together; to seek justice together, to rescue the oppressed together, to defend the orphan and plead for the widow together. The prophet’s challenge applies equally to us today. How can we live our unity as Christians to confront the evils and injustices of our time? How can we engage in dialogue, increase awareness, understanding and insight about one another’s lived experiences? These prayers and encounters of the heart have the power to transform us – individually and collectively. Let us be open to God’s presence in all our encounters with each other as we seek to be transformed, to dismantle the systems of oppression, and to heal the sins of racism. Together, let us engage in the struggle for justice in our society. We all belong to Christ.

Today’s world has much to divide us. The United Methodist Church is currently struggling with issues of sexuality, being welcoming to all, and how to serve everyone around us. Personally, I very much doubt that God supports all the anxiety and rancor we are putting into these issues. As Isaiah points out, there are widows and orphans and sick people and homeless people who need us and our ministries. THAT’S what we should be focused on.

Please remember the week of prayer and pray for churches everywhere to focus on what needs to be done, what unites us, and not what divides us.

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