Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This week I’m sharing a brief excerpt from Connecting the Dots. The following passage begins Chapter Seven, “Fear and Hope.” (pp. 97-98)
Followers of Jesus live hope-inspired lives. This is not to say that we have successfully developed the habit of positive thinking or that we are optimistic by nature. In fact, hope is not a human achievement at all. Hope is a gift that comes as the result of a relationship with Jesus. The clearest example I have is from John’s gospel. On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to his disciples. He showed them his hands and feet so they would know that he was the crucified and risen Lord. Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). With the Father, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into each of his disciples. He literally inspires us. The word “inspire” is derived from the Latin word inspirare, and it means “to breathe in.” “Spirit” and “breath” come from the same root in Latin (spirare), as well as in Greek (pneuma) and in Hebrew (ruach). Therefore, it is no surprise that the Bible leads us to connect the idea of the Spirit with the image of God’s breath. When we follow Jesus, we breathe in his spirit. The Holy Spirit changes our hearts, empowers us, and sustains us. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). When we follow Jesus, he abides in us. We draw strength, direction, and purpose from him. Jesus inspires us by giving us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that he is already at work connecting the dots of our lives. As Paul said,“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:13–14).
Just as Jesus animates our individual lives through the Holy Spirit, so too does he breathe vitality into our congregations. Sometimes we slip into thinking that our church is just a place that individuals gather to pray. That may be true about the buildings we inhabit for worship, fellowship, and programs, but the Church is a living, breathing community of which each of us is a unique, irreplaceable part. Instead of saying, “I go to Church at St. Agnes of the Trees,” members of St. Agnes say, “We worship together at St. Agnes.” In a world marred by loneliness, finding a place where a person can genuinely say “we” is a priceless treasure.
Stayed tuned for more about congregational vitality at Diocesan Convention. Please set aside October 12th and 13th for a time of worship, study, and family business. While visitors to Convention do not have voice or vote, they will be able to participate fully in our community-building activities and hear about the future we envision. (There is also time set aside for a book signing. Connecting the Dots will be available as a premium for donations to outreach.)
Turning to a slightly different topic, I invite you to visit our website (http://www.diocesewla.org) to view the first of a series of short videos that we are producing. In each clip I will briefly discuss a single topic such as faith, hope, grace, and forgiveness. Eventually, we will make these clips available in packages that can be used for small group ministry or Sunday programs. We are assembling a team to provide a leader’s guide with questions for discussion. Many thanks to Bob Harwell for coming up with this idea and for doing so much work to produce these videos.
I will close by reminding you to help me stay in touch with you. Friend me on Facebook (you’ll find me as Jake Owensby). Subscribe to Pelican Anglican via email or check it out manually every week (http://pelicananglican.blogspot.com). My Sunday sermons are always posted there, and occasionally I post additional essays. If you would like to listen to Sunday sermons, head to http://sermon.net/bishopjake. Links to both the blog and the audio sermon are located on the diocesan website.
What a gift you all are in my life! It is a joy to love you so dearly and to serve as your bishop. May the Lord bless you and keep you until we meet again.
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D.
The Diocese of Western Louisiana
P. O. Box 2031, Alexandria, LA 71309-2031