By Rick Wolcott*
Bishop Tracy S. Malone was the invited guest preacher for the Mosaic multi-ethnic praise and worship service at Garfield Memorial UMC (North Coast District) in Pepper Pike on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, January 17.
“I want to take an opportunity to thank Pastor (Chip) Freed for extending the invitation for me to proclaim the Word of God on this Sunday morning as we remember and celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You noticed that I emphasized Reverend to remind us that Dr. King was a priest and a prophet, an exhorter and an activist, a practitioner and a dreamer. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied the Word of God and lived as a reflection of Jesus Christ through his bold and courageous ministry of love, justice, and reconciliation. So, it is fitting, and it is proper, that we remember and honor this servant of God today, who lived and rendered his life in service for the Kingdom of God, who advocated and worked for the equality and the freedom of all of God’s beloved children,” Malone said at the beginning of her sermon.
Bishop Malone’s message, On Christ the Solid Rock We Stand, was grounded in the words of John 1:43-51, which tells of Jesus calling out to Philip to, “follow me,” and then later of Phillip telling Nathanael about Jesus and saying to him, “come and see.”
“The Gospel shows us that Jesus can read our hearts. Christ is the light that illumines every person. He is not only the One who gives each of us light, who lights our path, but He helps us to know and to do what is right, what is just, what is loving. Jesus is able to see all of our potential. We can never give up on people, because Christ never gives up on us,” Malone said.
Services at Garfield Memorial are currently online to best care for all during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her sermon, the Bishop spoke to the division, tension and fear in the United States caused by several factors: the ongoing pandemic; racism and racial injustice; and political polarization.
“I am convinced that if we have a desire to follow Christ and invite people to come and see Jesus, if we have a desire to transform this world then we, as disciples of Christ, we may not and must not grow weary. We must commit to the discipleship work of dismantling racism and it begins with facing our own current realities and admitting that we have a problem. One of the serious problems we have is that whenever we talk about race or racism, or white supremacy and white nationalism, or abuse of power, or institutional inequity or injustice of any kind, it elicits all kinds of cautious conversations and it evokes a lot of emotion. What saddens my heart is that some cannot even discuss matters of race and even politics among friends or in their households or in the church or in the mosque or synagogues because they don’t feel safe – afraid of being judged,” said Malone.
“God calls us to come and see and remember who and whose we are, and who we are called to be as the Body of Christ. I believe that as a Church, as a people of faith, we are to be a people of conscience. If we have a moral obligation to love the Lord our God with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength and to also love our neighbors as ourselves, we also have a moral obligation to keep Dr. King’s dream alive – a dream that is embedded in God’s vision for beloved community and a civil society. We must commit ourselves to declare that we will always do what is right, and what is just, and what is loving, as Dr. King reminds us that the time is always now to do what is right,” she said.
The Bishop concluded her sermon saying, “We have to stand on Christ and the Word of God, and Christ is the very Word of God that has become flesh and dwells among us. We are called to be those who represent, who re-present Christ, to offer light, to bring hope, to be those who seek, to be part of the reconciliation movement that will bring about unity, that will restore us, that will keep us ever vigilant toward God’s dream for God’s world for beloved community. Let it be so. Let it be so. Let it be so. Amen.”
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.