Call to Prayer and Fasting

Call to Prayer and Fasting

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dear members, pastors, and friends of the Rio Texas Conference, Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many of you anxiously followed the proceedings from the Special Called Session of General Conference in St. Louis. These past few days have been emotionally difficult for every one of us. My heart broke watching fellow United Methodists fail to find a new path forward that breaks through the impasse that we've experienced in our church over the past 47 years over LGBTQ inclusion. We had many difficult and public conversations about issues that are tied to our identities as United Methodists, as Christians, and as children of God.

For those of you who have not followed the details, I offer a brief explanation of what happened over four days in St. Louis. After a full day of prayer, the 864 delegates from across the global church received the report of the Commission on a Way Forward, including the One Church Plan (which was recommended by the Council of Bishops), the Connectional Conference Plan, and the Traditional Plan. The General Conference decided to give priority focus to the Traditional Plan and the One Church Plan. After two days of debate, the One Church Plan was defeated, and the Traditional Plan was supported by a vote of 53% to 47%. The Traditional Plan keeps the current language regarding homosexuality in the Book of Discipline, and streamlines the processes to enforce penalties for violations related to marriage and ordination of LGBTQ persons. A number of elements of the Traditional Plan, however, were have been found unconstitutional by the Judicial Council and the whole plan will be reviewed again at the council's meeting in April. This means some or all of what was approved may not actually take effect. During the weeks to come, I'll be meeting with various groups to process what the decisions mean for us.

So, what does all this mean for the mission of Christ through the churches and people of the Rio Texas Conference?

First, I continue to count it an honor to serve as a Bishop of the United Methodist Church, and especially of the Rio Texas Conference. My task is to help us order our life together as a conference and to focus our work on the mission of Christ.  No matter how you may feel about the decisions of the General Conference or whether you agree with or are hurt by the outcome, we are still in ministry together. All of us are valued parts of the body of Christ. Our lives and ministries are interwoven by the Holy Spirit, and not by decisions made at General Conference. As bishop, I offer all my prayers and efforts to include and foster the ministries of every person seeking to serve Christ. No matter how you are feeling about the conversations going on at the global level of our denomination, I want you to know that every one of us and everyone we serve are of infinite value and matchless worth in God's eyes. No denominational legislation will ever change that fact.

Second, I ask us not to underestimate the pain that is felt by many of our brothers and sisters in this moment. Many people feel hurt, betrayed, and excluded by the decisions made at General Conference. Please pray for those most personally affected. Within every congregation in our Conference, there are people for whom this conversation is not an abstract debate, but rather a conversation that affects lives dear to us-sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, co-workers and neighbors. A great number of people from the LGBTQ community are committed, faithful United Methodists. This is a tender time in the life of our church, a time especially to bear with one another in love with all humility and gentleness. (Ephesians 4:2)

Third, we still have much important work to do together. While we were gathered in St. Louis, the need for a faithful United Methodist witness in Rio Texas has only grown greater. Across our annual conference, there are multitudes that need to hear and witness the love of God in their lives and communities. While we debated plans and passed motions, our members and churches have been continuing the good work of reaching out to new people in new ways. Our disaster response network continues to bring hope to those lives devastated by Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters. Our churches and partners continue to respond to the humanitarian crisis at our border. Our congregations continue to seek fresh expressions of the Gospel, reaching out into our communities and experimenting with new ways to go where people are to connect them with the good news of Christ.

I realize that, for some, these words will ring hollow. Many of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters question whether there is truly a place for them in our church, and many of our traditionalist brothers and sisters feel anxious. But I want to invite everyone-whether or not you agree with the decisions of General Conference-to help us forge a way forward together in Christ as an annual conference.

"Let's not get tired of doing good, because in time we'll have a harvest if we don't give up."  Galatians 6:9

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." John 13: 34-35.

Join me in prayer that we might continue to bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ in our churches, communities, and throughout Rio Texas.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Schnase, Bishop
The Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church



Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Call to Prayer and Fasting for our 2019 General Conference

Call to Fasting: West District Prayer
Focus: Love

Now this is the commandment-the statutes and the ordinances-that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19

Thank you, dear Lord, for your love and care for me evidenced in so many ways. Thank you for pardoning my sins; thank you for the opportunities to show love that I will encounter this day. Let it be my single ambition, my God, to honor you in every thought, word, and deed; and make me bold to invite all people around me to honor and love you as well. Your love toward me is so patient, so tender, even when I provoke you with my disobedience. Give me such an appreciation of your love for me that I may show the same patient and tender love to my neighbor, especially when he or she opposes me… Lord, help me to be peaceful rather than argumentative; help me to be quick to forget an injury and be reconciled to my neighbor, mindful of how many times you have forgiven my provocations. After your own example, make me glad to give good in return for evil, and thus share in the triumph of your love. In all my dealings with my fellow human beings, let me reflect your love, your generous spirit, your desire to do good both to the just and to the unjust. You have so valued each person that you sent your Son for each and every one. Implant, therefore, such a compassion in my heart for people that I will eagerly seek out how I may win them to your love.

David A. deSilva
Praying With John Wesley, 2003, abridge

Silence
Pray for our delegates
Laity: Teresa Keese, Abel Vega, Ralph Thompson, Carol Loeb, Jay Brim
Clergy: Laura Merrill, Teresa Welborn, Eradio Valverde, Carl Rohlfs, Edgar Avitia-Legarda



Monday, February 25, 2019

Call to Fasting: Las Misiones
Prayer Focus: Obedience

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Psalm 51:1-11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch. " 5 Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets. " 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! " 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people. " 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11

Lord, save us from discouragement, disappointment, and desperation. May your Holy Spirit increase our gifts so that your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus' name. Amen.

"The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. "

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 20th century

Silence
Pray for our delegates
Laity: Teresa Keese, Abel Vega, Ralph Thompson, Carol Loeb, Jay Brim
Clergy: Laura Merrill, Teresa Welborn, Eradio Valverde, Carl Rohlfs, Edgar Avitia-Legarda



Sunday, February 24, 2019

Call to Fasting: Hill Country District
Prayer Focus: Unity

I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-612

As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17

God of all creation instill in us an understanding that whatever we are going through is our invitation to participate in the redemption of the world. Breathe your Holy Spirit into us and around us as we journey in prayer. Help us remember that while in prayer, we take with us our friends, enemies, and all our relationships and as we are all interconnected everybody benefits from our experience of you. Through laying ourselves at your feet in prayer, absolutely everyone, past, present, and to come is included in your ongoing work in us. Bless us as through prayer you are reestablishing our interconnectedness to one another and to the created world. God of grace, in this time of prayer open our eyes to those creatures and creation around us seeing all things as belonging to you, so that if others suffer around us, you, O God, suffer with them. Amen.

Prayer Inspired by Father Thomas Keating, 20th century

Silence

Pray for our delegates
Laity: Teresa Keese, Abel Vega, Ralph Thompson, Carol Loeb, Jay Brim
Clergy: Laura Merrill, Teresa Welborn, Eradio Valverde, Carl Rohlfs, Edgar Avitia-Legarda



Saturday, February 23, 2019

Call to Fasting: El Valle District
Prayer Focus: Forgiveness

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children and live in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:31-5:2

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 2Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, "Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. 3Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, 'Our God,' to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy."
I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. 5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.  6 His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon. 7 They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.  I am like an evergreen cypress; your faithfulness comes from me. 9 Those who are wise understand these things; those who are discerning know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them. Hosea 14:1-9

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace, that where there is hatred, I may bring love; that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; that where there is discord, I may bring harmony; that where there is error, I may bring truth; that where there is doubt, I may bring faith; that where there is despair, I may bring hope; that where there are shadows, I may bring light; that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted; to understand, than to be understood; to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.

St. Francis of Assisi, 13th century
Founder, Order of the Franciscans

Silence

Pray for our delegates
Laity: Teresa Keese, Abel Vega, Ralph Thompson, Carol Loeb, Jay Brim
Clergy: Laura Merrill, Teresa Welborn, Eradio Valverde, Carl Rohlfs, Edgar Avitia-Legarda



Friday, February 22, 2019

Call to Fasting: Crossroads District
Prayer Focus: Humility

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. Romans 12:3-5

Lord Jesus, when you walked the earth,Your humility obscured your Kingship.Your meekness confused the arrogant,Hindering them from grasping your purpose,Your nobleness attending to the destitute.Teach me to model after your eminence,To subject my human nature to humility.Grant me with a natural inclinationTo never view myself greater than anyone.Banish all lingering sparks of self-importanceThat could elevate me greater than you.Let my heart always imitate your humility. Author Unknown

Holy Spirit, I humbly submit to your leading and guiding this day.  Direct my conduct, attitudes and decisions, that in all I think, say and do, I might reflect the character of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Silence

Pray for our delegates
Laity: Teresa Keese, Abel Vega, Ralph Thompson, Carol Loeb, Jay Brim Clergy: Laura Merrill, Teresa Welborn, Eradio Valverde, Carl Rohlfs, Edgar Avitia-Legarda 

The Lord's Prayer