* By Liz Winders
FORT WAYNE— On day two of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church, opening worship began with praising God. Dayspring Native American United Methodist Church’s Pastor Danira Parra opened with prayer and reflection centered around the Native American Spirit Drum.
After singing and dancing to the drum beat, Bishop Tracy S. Malone, resident bishop of the Ohio East Area, began her sermon preaching from 2 Corinthians 4:7-18.
“We are hard-pressed on every side. But thanks be to God, we’re not crushed,” said Malone. “We may find ourselves from time to time being perplexed, but by giving thanks to God, we are not despairing. We even find ourselves being persecuted but never abandoned. Struck down but not destroyed.”
Bishop Malone continued and said that we are always carrying around in our bodies the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed.
“Paul was writing this letter to the church to persuade them to have a deeper and more abiding faith in Jesus Christ and to build up the body of Christ to inspire us toward peace, to inspire us toward reconciliation, to inspire us towards the love of one another, reminding them and us that the gift of faith, the gift of grace and the gift of reconciliation are God’s gifts to us,” said Bishop Malone. “And it’s out of God’s unconditional love for all of us, not because of who we are, not because of anything that we have done, not because we’re so talented and gifted or because we’re so smart and pedigreed and sophisticated. No. But it’s because of who God is.”
Malone told the audience that God’s grace and endless mercy are what empower us to remain faithful and hopeful even when we suffer trials and tribulations, even when we find ourselves disappointed, even when we find ourselves growing weary and tired of trying to do good, the gift of the glory of God is in us, and that is what inspires us to persevere to remain steadfast.
“It is this power that has sustained us through the pandemic. It is this power that sustains us through the ongoing racial tensions and senseless deaths. It’s this power that keeps us even while violence is running rampant in our communities. And it’s this power of God that’s keeping us even as we go through these divisions and splinterings in the church,” said Bishop Malone. “It is this power that keeps us sustained in the midst of separation and disaffiliation. It is this power that helps us to remain steadfast in the midst of the many political and cultural wars. It is the Christ in us, living and working through us, that is the hope of glory. And guess what? We can claim it even while we’re suffering.”
Malone said that the apostle Paul in his letter to the church of Corinth gives spiritual insight into what a transformed life and transformed relationships look like as a follower of Jesus Christ. Paul wanted to make sure that they and we understand our promise in Jesus Christ.
“We are all guilty of sometimes being too quick to assess and examine other people, and we can easily point out their flaws … but one of the most difficult things is facing our own stuff, facing our own issues, our own fears, our own inadequacies. Our own guilt, being accountable for our own actions,” said Malone. “Every day, we have a choice to make. Yes, we do every day … We have to remember, and we have to decide how we will reflect Christ … Let us be able to see Christ in everybody. Let us see everyone as God’s beloved child.”
Liz Winders is director of communications for the Iowa Conference.