“Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ...1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 - The Message (MSG)”
We will proclaim again this Easter Sunday. “We serve a risen savior who is in the world today.”
I greet you this Easter season full of hope and gratitude with signs of spring all around. The United Methodist Church in Iowa, planted in counties and communities of all sizes, is uniquely poised to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As clergy (including bishops), we go where we are sent. As an annual conference, we respond together in ways that only a truly connectional family can do.
Thank you for the marvelous ways that grace-filled churches, led by spirit-filled pastors, in partnership with generous and hard-working laity, are making a difference, as we proclaim the life-changing love of Jesus. Iowa continues to support mission and ministry at home and around the world.
The Risen Christ is alive in the world. Let me tell you how I know. More than 200,000 lives have been saved through our support for Imagine No Malaria. We lead our denomination in support of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, something for which we will be recognized at the upcoming Annual Conference session in June. New graduates of the School for Lay Ministry make Iowa a conference that embraces the Three Simple Rules: “do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God” every year
Iowa congregations provide support for twenty missionaries. Almost $1.4 million was given by 554 of our congregations to support projects across five continents, such survival assistance to women and children who have been trafficked, providing clean water, and assisting the educational mission of secondary schools. Justice For Our Neighbors provides life saving legal advice in Iowa.
We survived the adversity of the 2008 floods by working together with our neighbors, whoever they may be, by building relationships that open doors for ministry – a lesson that doesn’t just need to be crisis driven. Thousands of United Methodists support the InGathering every year with health kits and flood buckets, blankets and prayer shawls, cash and commitments. Over $3 million has been given in support of Heifer International through Iowa United Methodists.
We celebrate the twenty-five years of the Iowa-Nigeria Partnership. That collaboration has resulted in local churches working together, dispatching dozens of mission work teams, establishing connections with Iowa United Methodist colleges, and, in Nigeria, schools, clinics, agricultural projects, and water wells that are a visible witness of the bonds of Christ’s love. Theological training in Nigeria has never been stronger thanks, in part, to our support of the Banyam Theological Seminary, which includes Iowaclergy teaching.
There are challenges that face us as Iowa United Methodists. Some of our faith communities are struggling and experiencing decline. People are hungry and hurting. I support those who are eager to share the Good News of salvation in Jesus and the social gospel by helping children to learn to read, alleviating the problems caused by illiteracy that impacts our young ones and their families. I believe in the love of God and love of neighbor and the power of prayer. Indeed, I remain unapologetically Christian and unashamedly United Methodist.
We, in Iowa, seek to stay in love with God and our neighbors. Bishop Rueben Job, one of Iowa Conference’s earlier Bishops, reminds us of that fundamental of the United Methodist tradition. (We will miss Bishop Job’s wisdom and words now that he has gone on to the Church triumphant.)
We have done three things at every Annual Conference that I have attended as a pastor, superintendent and now bishop. First, we sing together as the church…Church, as in the Christian church, as expressed in the United Methodist tradition of a particular annual conference – one body sharing in worship. Second, we give thanks for the family that we are. We do so in the Memorial Service, the Retirement Service, the Service for the Ordering of Ministry and in many other ways. Third, we accept the challenge and invitation to transform the world. We do it through actions we take and offerings we bring – churches with twenty members and two Professions of Faith, and churches with 500 members and twenty baptisms. We are reminded that it is well with our souls not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ Jesus has done for us and will do through us.
So, in these days when Easter approaches, when we move from despair to hope, from loneliness to community, from death to new life, let me say how grateful I am to all the United Methodist Churches in Iowa, all the clergy and laity, and the children and youth who have expressed a calling to ministry as laity and future pastors. Thank you to those who are engaged in mission, near and far, that is life changing and world transforming. Thank you to people who bring fresh water to our thirsty, food to our hungry, shelter and clothing to our homeless, a welcome to our estranged, and prayer to everyone.
I trust and believe that God has a time and a place for all people. I am guided by words of scripture, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We do it here in Iowa with people I love and I am privileged to serve. I have cast my lot with the church that loved me, sent me to camp, and certified me as a lay speaker and later as a candidate for ministry.
Together, we serve a Risen Savior who is in the world, today.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble