Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball shares the following pastoral letter to the people of The West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church as we prepare to celebrate Epiphany, Sunday January 6th.
Epiphany is a season when we celebrate Christ’s mission and ministry among us. The light shines in the darkness and even though the darkness tries to overcome the light, it cannot overcome the light. (John 1:5) Christ is the light of the world and we are instructed in the Scriptures to let our lights shine so that others may see the light and glorify God. (Matt. 5:16)
In the West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church we are making Christ known in our communities and we are proudly claiming our identity as Christ-filled United Methodist Christians. Christ’s light is shining through us all around our conference and many people are finding their way through the darkness and into the light by the active presence of our United Methodist Mission Projects, ongoing Disaster Recovery, campus ministry, and our Local Congregations.
One of our distinctively Wesleyan ideas is reflected in the Doctrine of Assurance. We can be certain of God’s love. In fact, one of the most familiar verses of the New Testament, John 3:16, reminds us that it was God’s love that motivated God to send Jesus into the world for our salvation. Elsewhere in Scripture we are told that we love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) We proclaim to the world that we can be assured that God is with us and that God loves us. Again, in Scripture, Jesus told us that he will be with us even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
Because of the assurance we have that God is with us and loves us, we are able to embrace our future without fear. (1 John 4:18) We may not know what our future will look like, but we can know that God will be there. In fact, we can rightly say by faith that God is already there. God awaits us in our future and because we believe that, we can foresee our future as full of promise and hope.
Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany are all seasons in the Christian year that remind us that we have a hope-filled future. Sometimes the future may seem dim, but we know that Christ’s light will shine in the darkness and lead us forward. Additionally, the light of Christ resides in each one of us. That means we need to shine our lights too. There are so many good things to celebrate in our churches throughout the West Virginia Conference and when we focus on and tell people of these positive manifestations or stories of Christ’s light, then Christ’s light\ within us will shine more brightly and light the way not only for us but for others.
So, during this Epiphany season shine your light for Christ. Together with Christ we dispel the darkness in our world. May all of our churches become beacons of light in our communities so that others can find what we have found – God’s presence in our lives and God’s light in our world. When we let our lights shine, we bear witness to the Christ who is among us.
Let Christ’s light shine through you so that you enable Christ to be known among the people!
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball