|Communion service during Thursday evening at the 2012 Annual Conference. -Photo by Rev. Armando Rodriguez|
Bishop John F. White of the African Methodist Episcopal Office of Ecumenical & Urban Affairs preached a challenging sermon to a full house at Thursday night’s Service of Word and Table, as he dared the crowd to live up to this year’s theme “Transforming the World.”
White offered vivid images drawn from both truth and fiction, citing experiences he had in the segregated South and episodes of television’s “Mission Impossible,” weaving the messages together to encourage his audience.
“We are God’s agents for the ‘mission possible’,” he said, listing mission, service and witness as key to transformation of the world despite problems which exist.
White said the obstacles are many in today’s world---listing investments in prisons rather than education, children and school systems in crisis, divorce, high unemployment and foreclosure as hardships. “The landscape of the church is changing every day and the world poses new challenges….how can we be faithful when we have diverse cultures, different languages, different socio-economic situations and many different denominations? ” he asked.
He then urged the crowd to consider the writing of St. Paul in Ephesians 4:25-32, when Paul was suffering, but declared to his correspondents --“I can do all things through Christ Jesus.” As an aside, White pointed out that Paul was not a young person at the time, rather a “senior saint” who would today have been eligible for an AARP card and Social Security.
“God has called us to be super agents for Christian unity, in the likeness of Jesus Christ,” he said, “so this world will be a better place for all God’s children….as lay and clergy together, we must exceed our expectations.”
|Rev. Carl Shafer, 92, and his granddaughter Amanda break bread together at Thursday night's Communion Service. -Photo by Rev. Armando Rodriguez|
“I dare you to be brave. I dare you to be true. I dare you to do that which is right…because Christ is your captain….We can exceed our expectations to transform the word because our witness is true,” declared White. “The Almighty has called each of us, and not unemployment, poverty, cancer, war, terrorism nor divisiveness can separate us from the love…we can transform this world because we have been called to make a difference,” he said.
After White’s sermon, Rev. Armando Rodriguez addressed the crowd, explaining the distribution of annual conference giving--- an area where the Florida Conference has been helping to transform the world of East Angola. “You may have been wondering why 70 percent of this offering has been dedicated to East Angola--(the answer is) we are securing the future of the church there, forming many new pastors and investing our money where it will do the most good…the Holy Spirit is hovering over them,” he said.
Rodriguez praised Bishop Whitaker and his wife Melba, saying, “We honor your legacy to the Florida Conference with this offering, which will continue these ministries as they are close to the heart of God.” The other 30 percent of the offering will go to Alfalit, a non-profit organization which fights illiteracy all around the world. The offering at the service totalled $44,423.