Friday, June 24, 2016

Creating new places for new people

By Rev. Bethany P. Wood

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here.

The people of the Susquehanna Annual Conference gathered to worship, sing, pray, and holy conference with energetic, inviting song. “Joy of the Lord” echoed through the space created for the work and fellowship ahead.

Led by members of the Young People’s Ministry Council, worship began with the announcement that God, as proclaimed in Isaiah 43, is dong a new thing. Possibilities exist for the church to be transformed into places of vitality; possibilities for walking a new path, a new journey, and a renewed purpose as we together make new disciples for such a time as this.

Do we say “yes” or “no” to God? What are our expectations? We have the expectation that God is always doing something new, creating new spaces for new people, raising up new leaders, new ideas, and new potential. We have the expectation that God can radically change our communities into spaces where the Good News is shared and our neighbors are loved.

Pastors Mindi Ferguson and Kristopher Sledge brought that home in the “Spoken Word.” They each spoke in a litany of how God has taken their lives in an undetermined journey, wrapped in grace. What is ahead, we cannot presume to know. We do know that God is present and that God is working for good as we live into the promise of faith.

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park greeted the congregation, delightedly recalling the conversation with the Rev. Beth Jones four years ago signaling his appointment to the Susquehanna Conference. He thanked those gathered for their faithful witness in so many ways – in the increase of paying Shares of Ministry, enabling the conference to pay our General Church Shares of Ministry in full, in raising over $400,000 for the Bishop’s Initiative, in mission ventures, and Second Mile giving in local congregations. He recognized his wife, Lisa, as she was joyfully acknowledged by the Conference.

As Bishop Park began his sermon, he asked God’s people to pray, pray, pray. And pray. He spoke of creating new spaces for new people. Last year, the Conference engaged in a theme of vital congregations. This year the theme has shifted. It is important for the church to disciple young people and create new, exciting, vibrant space for faith to grow and flourish.

In referring to Matthew 13:1-9, he underlined the importance of the sower of the seed, and the kinds of soil the seed fell upon. The sower was extravagant in broadcasting the seed, although the soils that it fell upon were not always productive. He related that to our spiritual life. At times we can be barren, rocky, or fruitful in our faith life. The question becomes, “how it is with your soil today?” Are you ready to take root and flourish? What is in your heart? At the end of the day, it is what is on the inside that counts.

God does surprise us. “Open your eyes and look at the fields,” Bishop Park implored. Don’t give up, for the fields are ripe for harvest. People are more ready to receive God’s grace than you might think.

Keep spreading the seed, keep singing the songs, keep telling the gospel, and don’t lose heart. Let those who have heart embrace a future filled with hope. Bishop Park concluded the service by leading a spirited rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”

The video and transcript of Bishop Park’s message will be available at 

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