When John Wesley sent Thomas Coke over to America in 1784 to establish the Methodist Episcopal Church (which through a long history of splits and mergers would become The United Methodist Church), Wesley gave Coke this charge: “Offer them Christ, Thomas! Offer them Christ!” For Wesley, the act of preaching, and even the mission of the church is to offer a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ to those with whom we come in contact.
These words form a portion of the mission statement of the Memphis Conference of the UMC: “…offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time.” This phrase also forms the “O” of our design at Ellendale UMC to be the church of “H.O.P.E.” That is, we think part of the process of making disciples of Jesus Christ (the mission of the church) is to “Offer Christ,” or give people opportunities to make a commitment to Jesus by following him. This offer comes in the context of Hospitality – or extending God’s welcome, grace, and love to others.
And so, as we continue our journey this year of discovering what it means to be the church of H.O.P.E., our emphasis through Lent into Easter will move toward “Offering Christ.” Therefore, I wanted to give you all a glimpse of where we are heading in this Lenten season in our worship services and discovering anew the Jesus of the Gospels who encounters ordinary people, religious people, broken people, grieving people, all sorts of people and offers them…offers us his very self. And this is quite significant if we are longing to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus Christ. For this truth cannot be understated: You cannot offer what you do not have! For us to offer Christ, we must receive Christ and allow the transforming grace he offers to work in our lives so that it might spill out into others.
In this, it is my hope and prayer that you will join us in this journey of discovering how Jesus offers us himself throughout the Lenten season: as the path of humility and obedience in the face of temptation (Matthew 4:1-11); as new birth and new beginnings embracing a kingdom from above (John 3:1-17); as living water for the thirsty (John 4:5-42); as sight and vision for the blind and lost (John 9:1-41); as resurrection hope for the grieving (John 11:1-45); and as salvation for the desperate (Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 27:15-38).
As you approach this Lenten season, I encourage you to engage in prayer, in fasting or taking on a new discipline, in worship with the gathered community, in studying the Scriptures, and in mission by extending the love and hospitality of God wherever you may find yourself. Let us take in Christ that we might offer Christ to the world.