I WONDER AS I WANDER . . . ADVENT 2009: Anticipating "God's Renewed Creation"

At the recent Council of Bishops meeting, this semi-annual global gathering of United Methodist Bishops, active and retired, adopted unanimously a pastoral letter which we are asking every congregation to hear during the season of Advent.  The theme of the pastoral letter is “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action,” and is the result of more than four years of study and listening to many persons and groups around the world.  More than 20 years ago, The Council offered another Pastoral Letter and study document, “In Defense of Creation:  The Nuclear Crisis and A Just Peace.”  That letter reminded us that the whole earth belongs to God, and that we have responsibility for its future as stewards of God’s creation.

This new letter deals with three interrelated threats that currently confront God’s creation:  “pandemic poverty and disease; environmental degradation and climate change, and a world awash with weapons and violence.”  For many people in our time, these critical issues create fear and hopelessness.  The Pastoral Letter acknowledges the difficulty of these serious matters, but remains rooted in our biblical hope for God’s renewed creation.  The Pastoral Letter invites each of us to pledge to God and to each other steps to participate in this renewing of God’s creation.

Why do we ask that you read this letter in every congregation?  And why during Advent?

Advent is a time of “new beginnings,” the start of the new year in the Christian cycle of remembering who we are and whose we are.  It’s a time when we remember that God gives us another chance, another opportunity of beginning again.  It’s another occasion for us to recall God’s wonderful grace that invites us to return to God’s ways, and to seek anew to follow those ways.

Advent is a time when the prophetic words from Isaiah and Jeremiah, from Malachi and Micah remind us of God’s longing to restore God’s people and God’s creation to the wholeness in which God created all things.  Advent is a time when the songs of Zechariah and Mary, and of the birth-accompanying angels remind us of God’s turning upside-down the normal expectations of power ruling and poor suffering become God “filling the hungry with good things, and sending the rich away with empty hands.”  (Luke 1:33).  

Advent is a time for us to take inventory of ourselves, our commitments, our response to God’s grace, and to engage in confession, repentance, and looking at new ways of being and living.  Advent is a time to put our individual and corporate lives in order in preparation for celebrating the birth of Emmanuel, “God with us,” the Word-become-flesh.   

The very purpose of Advent is a “call to action and hope” so that God’s desire for renewed creation, God’s renewing work in creation, may be realized in its fullness.  The very purpose of Advent is to recognize that we do that, not on our own strength and initiative, but only by and through God’s amazing grace.

I urge you not just to read the letter, but to use the liturgical format, which involves the congregation in prayer.  And I urge you, early in the new year, to use some of the resources that are being made available for reading, studying, and discussing the “Foundation Document” that accompanies the pastoral letter.  Engage with the United Methodist Church around the world in this important conversation about the intersection of our faith with critical issues in our world.

The pastoral letter is available online, along with a liturgical version and a foundation document. You can find all three and other resources by clicking here.

By: Bishop Susan Hassinger On 11/17/2009
Topics: I Wonder as I Wander...