Patriarch’s message for beginning Lent

We are the light to the World.

“Blessed are those who consider the poor and the needy!
The Lord will deliver them in time of trouble.”
— Psalm 41.1

The theme of the great days of Epiphany has to do with light coming into the midst of darkness. It is a light not only for just one group of people but for all people everywhere. The Gospel from the beginning was exclusive in that it proclaimed very simply that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life and no could come to the Father expect through Him. Yet, it was also inclusive because it was not a religion defined by a particular race or ethnic group. The mystery that was hidden but now revealed is that in Christ and at the cross the barriers have been broken down.

The ministry of reconciliation is both bringing Christ’s message of forgiveness to mankind and bringing mankind into the one human family of God. We do this by being light to the world – His light. This is most evident when we go amongst the sick, the poor, the addicted, the hungry, the homeless, the stranger, and the prisoner. All ministry is market-place ministry if we are to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19ff). The work of the Church is not to “do church” but to advance the Kingdom of God through proclaiming the ministry of reconciliation.

In recent memory, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her Sisters of Charity lived out Epiphany. Mother went to one of the poorest places on earth to a city that was dedicated to the goddess of death. With out resources or even much support from the Church this group of women impacted people around the world with the Gospel. The world heard through her acts of incredible mercy the love of Christ Jesus. Mother Teresa was not a social worker or even a worker of charity. Mother Teresa was a nun who first and foremost sought Jesus and from her relationship with Jesus in the Scripture and the Sacraments she went to minister to Jesus in the least.

This is our call whether it is in Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain, Sudan, Philippines, Hong Kong, Kenya, Canada, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, United States, Liberia, or the Congo. In these lands we have been placed for the purpose of being light to all nations, races, ethnic groups, or tribes. In those areas we bring the Scriptures and the preaching of the Word is confirmed with signs and wonders. It is not just the call of the CEC it is the call of the Church.

This Sunday is the last Sunday of Epiphany and we will gather on Wednesday, February 6th to begin the Great Lenten Fast in preparation for the Holy Week and the Great Celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The Lenten fast along with the disciplines of Lent draw us to remember our constant need for repentance. It is the need to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds in accordance with the mind of Christ. It is confession of sin that blinds us to the call of Christ. So we come to confess our sins with a humble and contrite heart intending, with His grace, amendment of life.

This amendment of life is not so we are “better people” but rather are more and more conformed in to the image and likeness of Jesus. We are to be light.

As I have entered into this new call upon my life I have been overwhelmed with the love in our communion. I have heard over and over again of signs and wonders. There are so many anointed ministries of healing and deliverance. I have talked with men and women who go to the jails and prisons on a weekly basis and experience young men and women come to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. I have heard of churches that feed hundreds of poor people on a weekly basis. I have met couples that adopted alcohol syndrome babies or rescue babies.

Eucharistic Worship – coming into the throne room of God to the banquet of the King – is the central act of the Church. The Eucharist is a life-transforming encounter with Christ Jesus. And while we are drawn into His glorious presence and receive His Body and Blood we are directed by the Deacon at the end of the liturgy to “God into the World.”

Epiphany is much more than the time between Christmas and Easter. Epiphany is the glorious reminder of the total redemption of the world achieved in our Lord Jesus. All things will be drawn to Him.

Under His Mercy,

The Most Rev’d Craig W. Bates
Patriarch, ICCEC

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