The Green Team: Second Sunday in Lent, February 28, 2010
by Rev. Pat Watkins
Today's gospel text is Jesus' lament over Jerusalem. "How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34) Lent is a time for all of us to examine our willingness to be disciples of Jesus Christ. For several years I have been willing for God to use my discipleship in ways that contribute to the healing of God's creation. I continue to pray that my willingness is also God's willingness for me to be engaged in this ministry. It is crucial that we are willing to be a part of God's mission, not our own, and are spiritually, Biblically, and prayerfully engaged enough to know the difference.
The United Methodist Church can help us understand God's mission and assess our own willingness to be a part of it. Several years ago, United Methodist Women established a Green Team. It was not as if they woke up one morning and suddenly decided to "go green." Quite the contrary--it was because of their continued willingness to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Since the inception of United Methodist Women, their mission has been to care for the needs of women and children around the world.
Upon discovering a link between the health and wellbeing of the planet and the health and wellbeing of women and children, United Methodist Women realized that in order to continue to do what they have always done, they needed to assemble a group of people with expertise in environmental problems and a passion for God's creation. The Green Team enables UMW to be more effective disciples of Jesus Christ, because they are willing to ask God to continue to reveal God's truth to them today.
The creation of the Green Team was a wonderful affirmation from my church that my personal call to ministry in God's creation was actually God's vision for me. I am on the Green Team and feel enormously blessed by UMW in creating a space in which I can "willingly" live out my discipleship.
But that's only "Part I." The General Board of Global Ministries provided "Part II." After serving as a Global Ministries missionary in Nigeria and then doing several different jobs since I've been home, I got the idea a couple of years ago that the church should make me a missionary again, only this time, a missionary to God's creation. It seemed to me that not only God's people were in need of missionaries, but so was everything else that God made.
So I floated the idea to the folks at Global Ministries, who thought it was a great idea. In January 2009 I became a Church and Community Worker appointed to a ministry to God's creation. My passion and the passion of my church came together in ways that have enabled me, along with a good sense of the Biblical theology of God's creation, to understand my willingness to participate in what God wills not just for me but for The United Methodist Church as well.
I am so proud of who we are; of UMW for being able to continually evaluate discipleship and what that means in today's context; of Global Ministries for broadening its understanding of mission to include not only God's people but the rest of God's creation as well. That's what happens in Lent! Lent sends us to the wilderness to evaluate where we are and where God needs us to be, and then to evaluate our willingness to step out yet again in faith to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
My hope is that Jesus does not lament over The United Methodist Church as he did over Jerusalem because my prayer is that we would always and forever be willing to step out boldly and creatively with ever evolving visions of how we can be involved in God's mission.
Some people give things up for Lent, and that is a great way to reflect on Jesus' wilderness experience. But this year, I want you to take something on as well as give something up. I want you to take on the enormous responsibility of being willing to be used however God needs you. I want you to commit to being an instrument of God so that you can change the world for the sake of the gospel. After all, if not us, then who's going to step up to inaugurate God's kingdom?
The Rev. Pat Watkins is Executive Director of Caretakers of God's Creation in Richmond, Virginia, a Church and Community Ministry of The United Methodist Church.
Date posted: Feb 27, 2010