This year we are entering Lent after learning that President Jimmy Carter, at 98 our longest-living former president, has entered hospice care. Bishop Hughes reflects on the example he has set of living one's faith out loud as an unabashed Christian and urges us to consider what this would look like for each of us. (Time: 4:23.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. It is Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent. That time where we look at our own mortality, the time when we look at Christ's eternity and the eternity that Christ has promised to us, that when this earthly life comes to an end, that we will spend the rest of our time in the presence of God in the heavenly country. It's a time for us to look at our own sinfulness and ask for forgiveness. And it is a time, I think, for us to consider how we are called to live the Christian life.
I'm especially aware this Ash Wednesday of the news of President Carter entering hospice care. Here is a man who lived the entirety of his life as an unabashed Christian. Talked freely and easily and openly about his faith, taught Sunday school every time he had the opportunity, looked for ways to help people, and said, as a Christian, this is my calling. I am supposed to help someone at every opportunity that I can. He lived in his own words, most of his life thinking, what if Christ came back today, I want to live a life worthy of Christ coming back today.
On Sundays, I spend time in coffee hour talking with people, and certainly in vestry meetings talking in depth with the leaders of a church. And very often they asked me, "What can I do in order to help grow our church?" And I encourage them to do the one thing that is probably the most impactful for all of our churches. And that is to live your faith out loud, to let people know that you are a faithful person. Let them know that you're praying for them. Let you know that your version of Christianity, the God that you believe in, calls you to help out people, and that the place where you worship, the Episcopal Church, is the one that believes that all of God's people are beloved, and all of God's people are welcome in church.
Very often in those conversations at coffee hour and in vestries, someone then tells me how hard it is to be a faithful person in this part of the country, that they're worried or afraid of the reaction if they tell someone I'm even praying for you, that they don't even want to say those words out loud. And I want to encourage all of us to look to people, like our 39th president. He paid some prices from time to time for his faith. There were people who disrespected him or ridiculed him. But I think the interesting thing is over the course of a life, there has been incredible respect earned by this faithful man that put Jesus first and God's people first, before anything else.
I want to invite you this Lent to find your version of doing that. Who would you be, if you were the person who put Jesus first and helping God's people first, before anything else? Who might you be, if you were the person that said, I'm going to hold you in prayer? And it is important for me, for you to know that you are beloved by God, and that I am praying for you. That would be an incredible gift for you to say to someone during this Lenten season.
This is how we live the Christian faith. And I don't know about you, but I'm incredibly grateful to President Jimmy Carter, for being an example to us all for how to do this.