What does it mean to abide?
This was the question set before the Dakotas Annual Conference on Friday morning by Bishop Bill McAlilly, the bishop of the Nashville Episcopal Area serving the Tennessee and Western Kentucky Conferences of The United Methodist Church. For Bishop McAlilly, the answer can be found in trust and service.
As a text, the bishop chose John 15, part of the farewell discourses before Jesus was crucified. Before the supper, Jesus laid his robe aside—the same verb he used when he talked about laying down his life for his friend. Throughout the text, he is preparing his disciples for his death.
But Jesus was also modeling a way of living, what Bishop McAlilly called “behavioral discipleship.”
“The gospel gives us a clear picture about what’s coming and how we need to behave,” he said. “It matters that what we say matches what we do,” he said.
After he had laid his robe aside, Jesus washed the disicples’ feet, indicating to the disciples that right behavior must involve tangible care for our neighbors.
“In the act of washing feet, Jesus has shown the disciples what it means to be a follower,” he said. “Service is a fundamental principle. He’s teaching us how to serve others.”
In his view, the act of service is a way to address depression, both individually and collectively.
“In a season of disruption, when our focus is on disaffiliation, we might want to turn our focus from that to serving Christ in the world,” he said. “Frankly, I’m not interested in [continued conflict]. I’m interested in serving others.”
As we do so, we find ourselves firmly in the company of Jesus, who does not leave us alone, but guides us into continued growth. And we have a clear metric by which to evaluate if we’re being formed into the likeness of Jesus.
“The measure of spiritual maturity is love,” he said. “That’s it. That’s the fruit.”
When he had finished, Bishop Lanette Plambeck introduced this year’s Miracle Offering: The Road to Hope. Recipients will be HelpLine of South Dakota and FirstLink of North Dakota, both of which offer front-line services for mental health.
"We need to reach into our pockets, not only for financial gifts, but also to let people know that every local church is a pocket of hope," said Bishop Lanette. "They need to know that they will be loved and welcomed. Bishop McAlilly asks us to abide. When I hear 'abide' I think of belonging and inclusion, diversity and equity. We come together and abide. Let's turn the church inside out—outside the church walls."
So far, almost $42,000 has been collected. The 2023 Miracle Offering remains open. Access resources here.