Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. Matthew 4:11
When the devil leaves, angels arrive and minister to Jesus. The cosmic choreography is striking.
We live amid devilish actions. Some actions are temporal and visible to us. Some are cosmic and less visual yet intuitive. One year after Putin’s war against Ukraine, and in a year when we have had fewer days than mass shootings, we must pay attention to aggression. Turkey and Syria rising from an earthquake with more than 50,000 people dead. We are all rising from the fading impact of the pandemic. We are wise to pause, fast, and pray.
We have been traveling together as people of the Way in Eastern and Western Michigan. Thank you for the privilege of accompanying you as your bishop provisional. I am honored and humbled!
As we engage in the season of Lent, I can see some convergence between Lent and our Season of Practice. Lenten practices of arms giving, fasting, and prayer give us some spiritual muscle memory to discern other methods. Methods like curiosity, discernment, and an openness to see how much we have in common. It usually provides the grace to navigate our differences. Curiosity is one of the best expressions of love.
Jiddhu Krishnamurti, an Indian Philosopher, said, “the ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” I would go further and add that it is the highest form of respect! We are in a beautiful place of exploration of one another. Let us be curious and see each other for the mysterious gift we are to one another.
We are amid many transitions. With transition comes grief and a degree of anxiety. The most apparent change of our time is the pandemic and all the misery and losses the world has endured. You have had a transition in the episcopate with a bishop provisional who has a strange hue compared to his predecessors, a different accent, and likes spicy food!
We asked the General Convention to pay attention to the process of pastoral support during a disciplinary process involving a bishop. Western Michigan is experiencing transitions with the departure of the CFO, a Canon Missioner, and two more Canon Missioners in the next few months. We are discerning new maps for new regions as we interview and prepare to call new Regional Canons to help us become thriving, beloved communities.
Behind each of these transitions is the spiritual practice of discernment. The second spiritual practice I would hold up is discernment. We must discern how to be and what to do. There are two expressions of agency, which is the end of discernment. A significant part of discernment is figuring out prayerfully when to practice what kind of agency. The first kind is where you act from the call, “don’t just stand there, do something.” The second kind of agency is responding to the invitation, “don’t just do something; stand there.” Let us discern and practice these during our season of practice with grace and patience.
Finally, let’s practice the gift of discovering our commonalities within and across the dioceses. Let us then allow the energy from these common ground experiences to help us navigate the places where we are different. In this Season of Practice and Lent, let us invite angelic expressions of curiosity, discernment, and commonalities while recognizing demonic forces that tempt us to go after shiny objects. May our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us develop the mind of Christ. Have a Holy Lent!