By Rick Wolcott*
Since being assigned to serve as the resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference, Bishop Tracy S. Malone has been intentional about listening to, learning from, and connecting with pastors and churches across the conference.
By spending full-days in all 10 districts, meeting one-on-one with many clergy and lay, participating in conversations with ministry teams and at committee and board meetings, the bishop has seen and heard the joys and the concerns of the conference.
She has observed that our communities are feeling the impact of poverty, crime, and addiction, and that too often our churches have to choose between spending dollars in mission for those in need or spending money to maintain aging buildings.
In the midst of these struggles, there are reasons for hope. During her visits, Malone has seen and heard countless examples of God’s generosity exhibited in the ministries and the mission work of East Ohio Conference churches and agencies.
The bishop’s most-recent visit was with the leadership and the residents of Copeland Oaks (Mahoning Valley District), one of the health and welfare agencies of the conference. The vespers service sermon she preached there, “The Extravagant Generosity of God,” centered on the woman at the well, as told in John 4:5-42.
“What I love about this text is that it truly shows us who Jesus is. It shows us how far reaching, how extravagant is the generosity of God’s love,” she said that evening from the Bennett Chapel pulpit.
Click on the video above to view Bishop Malone’s sermon, “The Extravagant Generosity of God.”
John wrote that Jesus, weary from his travel, stopped to rest in the Samaritan city of Sychar. That decision shocked the disciples because Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other in Jesus’ day.
“Our Lord, thanks be to God, on so many occasions in his ministry chooses an odd place to stop to witness to the glory of God’s love, and thanks be to God that he also stops in the odd places of our very lives,” Malone said in her sermon. “There’s a climactic moment in this text. Here, while at the crossroads of his own spiritual journey, with a woman, a Samaritan woman of questionable repute, he makes himself known to her.”
For the first time in the Bible, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah.
“The woman at the well became a woman made well because she was in the right place at the right time and Jesus extended to her the extravagant love and the grace of God. That’s just who Jesus is, and that’s just who he calls us to be,” Malone preached.
At a time when people are hurting, disillusioned, and angry, the ministries of our East Ohio Conference churches offer hope by proclaiming the good news that all things are possible through Jesus Christ.
That’s a message worth sharing.
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.