Bishop Hougland’s Message Before Sabbatical

Hey, Western Michigan! Hope you’re doing okay.

As I record this, it is a week before Holy Week and we’re counting down to the Easter season and my taking off on sabbatical, beginning May 1st.

I’ll be gone out of the office, May 1st through about August 10th. For two of those months, Dana and I are going to be traveling to Europe; to Italy and to Spain. My parents are going to come and visit us in Spain and we’re going to travel together for a while.

The hope is to really just to connect and spend time together, just the two of us, and to see places in the world that we’ve only dreamed of seeing. I’m really looking forward to having some time to rest and relax and to put the weight of carrying the Office of Bishop down for a bit, so that when I come back in August, we can be rested and renewed for whatever God has for us in the fall.

Everything else will continue on as it has been. The Diocesan Council will continue to gather as is regularly scheduled, to do the work that it’s continuing to do. The Standing Committee will continue to gather as it will. I will retain my authority as Bishop while I’m away. If anyone needs me, they can reach me. With technology, we shouldn’t have any problems, and I don’t foresee there being any major issues while I’m away. We have the folks here that can handle things without any problem.

The diocesan staff will continue to function as they have. Bill Spaid will be the point person for them and for you, if you don’t reach staff directly. He will be managing the activities taking place within the staffing structure and at the office.

Sabbath is a time when we set aside space to be with God, and in that being with God, finding quiet space to find ourselves as well and to be renewed in that quiet and reflective place. That’s what I hope sabbath will be for me.

I’ve had one sabbath, one sabbatical, in my 21 years now as an ordained person, and it was a great renewing event in my life. I trust that this will be as well.

I couldn’t have this opportunity without your great generosity and your support. I appreciate all the gifts that you’ve given Dana and me, to be your bishop and to serve here among you. It’s a great honor and privilege.

We look forward to seeing you again in August and have a great summer. Thank you.

An Easter Message from Bishop Hougland

Hello, Western Michigan. Hope you are well. We are nearing the end of our Lenten journey, closing in on Easter and I wanted to share some thoughts with you to help you celebrate this special time of year for us. Lent, as you know, is a time of discipline – a time of fasting and prayer, a time for introspection and reflection, and most of all, a time for repentance, turning around, changing direction, of moving towards God instead of away from God. It’s a time of practice forming a discipline of prayer, study, and reflection to help us get centered on God, so that when Easter comes, we can experience the great joy of new life. Some people say that there’s a reason for everything – when bad things happen. When hurricanes happen or floods happen. When there are terrible crimes and mass shootings, as we continue to see.

We say, “Well, that was just part of God’s plan.”

We say that because we really don’t know what to say. We say that because we want to have some sense of control over what has taken place. We say those sorts of things because we want to believe that we can understand the things that happened in the world when we really can’t explain it.

But as we understand Easter, we understand that there is actually a reason for everything. And that reason is resurrection.

Some want to believe that God is like a puppet master – perhaps controlling our lives like we’re puppets, causing things to happen so that we’ll come back to God because we’re bad and sinful people, which we can be. But that’s really thinking more about ourselves than about God.

For me, the providence of God is so beautifully evident in the season of Easter – in the story of the resurrection, that God takes a terrible thing – the death of his son – and creates something good out of it. And that good is resurrection.

God is like a magnet drawing us towards God – drawing the bad out of us and drawing us towards goodness in him.

Lent is a time to practice humility – not to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less. This lends us to be open to the grace that God has in store for us at Easter.

We want to skip right over Good Friday. Don’t we? We don’t want to deal with the death that is in life, that’s all around us. We want to sanitize it and clean it and wash our hands of the pain of death, of the fear of death, of the concern over dying. But dying is a part of life. It’s part of who we are, part of our experience, and it’s part of our relationship with God – that God came into the world to enter into this life, including dying himself.

And so, we have nothing to fear in life, and we have nothing to fear in death, and this should give us hope. Easter is about is focusing on hope, not wishful thinking. Wishful thinking says, “Gosh, I hope I win the lottery this week, or I hope my team wins the tournament coming up, or I hope my hair would grow back or the rain.”

That’s wishful thinking. That’s not Christian hope. Our hope is a certainty, a confidence –  hope and confidence not in ourselves and what we can do, but in God and what God has done and is continuing to do. God is drawing all things towards God like that magnet.

Death is not the end. The end and the hope and the purpose for all of life is resurrection to new life. That’s who we are – a people on hope, a people of resurrection. And if we can focus on that, instead of the badness, of our own sinfulness, if we can focus on grace and resurrection and seeking to see it and our life, then we will see it and experience it. We will begin to trust more, see grace more, be more accepting of others and live lives of hope.

We’re called to be a resurrection people. That’s what Easter is all about and that’s my call to you in this season of Easter.

Richard Rohr says it really well. He said, “God appears to be resurrecting everything all the time. It’s nothing to believe in as much as it is something to observe and be taught.”

In this season of Easter, my friends, look about you and see the good things that are coming to life all around.

Let me end with a prayer. It comes out of our prayer book in the service for ordinations.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favorably on your whole church, that wonderful and sacred ministry. By the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility, the plan of salvation. Let the whole world see and know that things which are cast down are being raised up and things which had grown old are being made new and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through all things were made, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit. One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Happy Easter.

 

Hola, Michigan Occidental. Espero que estén bien.

Nos estamos acercando al final de nuestro peregrinaje cuaresmal, llegando a la Pascua, y quería compartir algunos pensamientos con ustedes para ayudarles a celebrar este tiempo especial del año para nosotros.

La Cuaresma, como saben, es un tiempo de disciplina – un tiempo de ayuno y oración, un tiempo para la introspección y la reflexión y, sobre todo, a un tiempo para arrepentirnos, dar la vuelta, cambiar de dirección, y volvernos hacia Dios en vez de alejarnos de Él. Es un tiempo para intentar crear una disciplina de oración, estudio, y reflexión que nos ayude a centrarnos en Dios, de modo que cuando la Pascua llegue, podamos experimentar la alegría de la vida nueva.

Algunas personas dicen que hay una razón para todo – cuando pasan cosas malas. Cuando ocurren huracanes o inundaciones. Cuando tenemos terribles crímenes y tiroteos masivos, como los que seguimos viendo.

Decimos, “Bueno, eso era solamente parte del plan de Dios”.

Decimos eso porque realmente no sabemos qué decir. Decimos eso porque queremos tener algún sentido de control sobre lo que ha pasado. Decimos ese tipo de cosas porque queremos creer que podemos entender las cosas que han pasado en el mundo, cuando realmente no podemos entenderlas.

Pero a medida que entendemos la Pascua, entendemos que, de hecho, hay una razón para todo. Y esa razón es la resurrección.

Algunos quieren creer que Dios es como un titiritero controlando nuestras vidas, como si fuéramos marionetas, haciendo que las cosas pasen para que regresemos a Él porque somos personas malas y pecadoras – y bien podemos serlo. Pero eso es más bien pensar en nosotros que en Dios.

Para mí, la providencia de Dios es hermosamente evidente en el tiempo de Pascua -en la historia de la resurrección, en la que Dios toma una cosa terrible -la muerte de su Hijo- y crea algo bueno a partir de ella. Y ese bien es la resurrección.

Dios es como un imán, atrayéndonos hacia Dios – sacando lo malo de nosotros y atrayéndonos hacia su bondad.

La Cuaresma es un tiempo para practicar la humildad – no para menospreciarnos, sino para pensar menos en nosotros. Esto nos permite estar abiertos a lo que la gracia de Dios tiene preparado para nosotros en Pascua.

Queremos saltarnos el Viernes Santo, ¿no es verdad? No queremos lidiar con la muerte que hay en la vida que nos rodea. Queremos desinfectarla y limpiarla y lavarnos las manos del dolor de la muerte, del temor a la muerte, de la preocupación sobre la muerte. Pero morir es parte de la vida. Es parte de quien somos, parte de nuestra experiencia, y es parte de nuestra relación con Dios, un Dios que vino al vino para asumir completamente esta vida, incluyendo su propia muerte.

De modo que no tenemos nada que temer en la vida, y no tenemos nada que temer en la muerte. La Pascua se trata de enfocarnos en la esperanza, no en los buenos augurios. El buen augurio dice, “Ay, espero que me saque la lotería o, espero que mi equipo gane el próximo torneo o, espero que mi cabello crezca de nuevo o, espero que llueva”.

Eso es un buen augurio. Pero no es esperanza cristiana. Nuestra esperanza es ciertamente una confianza- esperanza y confianza no en nosotros mismos y en lo que podemos hacer, sino en Dios y en lo que Dios ha hecho y continúa haciendo. Dios está atrayendo todas las cosas hacia sí mismo, como el imán.

La muerte no es el final. El sentido, la esperanza y el propósito para toda vida es la resurrección a una nueva vida. Eso es lo que somos – un pueblo de esperanza, un pueblo de resurrección. Y si nos enfocamos en eso, en vez de en nuestra maldad y nuestro pecado, si podemos enfocarnos en la gracia y la resurrección y buscamos encontrarla en nuestras vidas, entonces la veremos y experimentaremos. Empezaremos a confiar más, a ver más la gracia, a aceptar más a otros y a vivir vidas de esperanza.

Estamos llamados a ser un pueblo de resurrección. De eso se trata la Pascua y a eso les invito en este tiempo de Pascua.

Richard Rohr lo dice muy bien. Él dijo “Vemos a Dios resucitando todas las cosas todo el tiempo. No se trata tanto de creer como de ver y ser enseñados.”

En este tiempo de Pascua, mis amigos, mírense ustedes mismos y vean todas las cosas que están tomando nueva vida alrededor de ustedes.

Déjenme terminar con una oración. Está en el Libro de Oración Común, en el servicio para las ordenaciones.

Dios de poder inmutable y luz eterna: Mira con favor a toda tu Iglesia, ese maravilloso y sagrado misterio; por la operación eficaz de tu providencia lleva a cabo en tranquilidad el plan de salvación; haz que todo el mundo vea y sepa que las cosas que han sido derribadas son levantadas, las cosas que han envejecido son renovadas, y que todas las cosas están siendo llevadas a su perfección, mediante aquél por quien fueron hechas, tu Hijo Jesucristo nuestro Señor; que vive y reina contigo, en la unidad del Espíritu Santo, un solo Dios, por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Feliz Pascua.