Bishop Rhymes H. Moncure, Jr. took a little liberty with the lyrics of a Jim Forbes’ song to communicate the idea that people’s lives are like songs waiting to be sung.
“Every one of us is a one-of-a-kind, precious child of God, with a unique song to sing,” he said. “The challenge for us today is to find those ways to resurrect our songs.”
Preaching at the May 7 morning worship service at the 2004 General Conference, the bishop of the Nebraska Conference drew his message from Ephesians 5:19:
“…as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Moncure said singing songs means that words, actions and thoughts should all be in harmony with the way God intends people to live their lives. He compared individuals coming together as a symphony and getting off key when they are out of harmony with God.
Moncure said resurrecting United Methodists’ song can be found by resurrecting their joy, resurrecting their hope, resurrecting their courage. He said joy comes from working together and being a dynamic denomination. “Sometimes praying together, sometimes crying together, sometimes laughing together, but all times joining hands together –– that’s singing your song,” he said.
Moncure introduced the idea of stones that keep rolling in the way of singing songs. He said these stones silence hope, joy and dreams and asked, “What are the stones today that are silencing the songs?”
Alluding to the many debates on the General Conference floor as stones keeping United Methodists from singing, he reminded the delegates of the peril of starting policy-setting conversations with “How much will this cost us with dollars and cents?” and not asking the question, “How much will this cost us if we do not go where God is leading us to go?”
Moncure raised “a small warning” about what he called the cliques, caucuses, boards, agencies, annual conferences and disconnecting congregations and how they have come to take class action against the emerging melodies of hope and the songs of life. “What’s silencing our songs today?” Moncure asked.
Moncure brought the analogy to a personal level by saying sometimes people defeat themselves. He said paralyzing fear seems to grip people when they fail to recognize their kinship with each other.
He called for the assembly to roll away the stones to see the lyrics of life, the harmony of life and spirit, like a divine conductor calling the chorus together to resurrect the song in its lives.
Moncure said that if people were to make their “song” creating disciples for Jesus Christ, the church would see a transformation as never seen before. He envisions a transforming growth of the church in all its many facets.
He exuded empathy for the delegates who were in their 10th day of meeting.
From his view from the bishops’ podium, he said he sees a room full of songs — people with capabilities, gifts, talents and possibilities.
Moncure once again called to the assembly, “Can you imagine what would happen if there were a mighty release and a resurrection of the songs of life for us in this General Conference? If we were set free of all of our fears? And, with a resurrection of hope and joy and courage from the people of God, the United Methodist Church, we could dismantle the walls and roll away the stones of our fears.”
Citing Ephesians, he said, “Wake up, wake up, and Christ shall give us the light.”
He exclaimed, “God’s power, God’s might, God’s activity –– it’s in this church!” The Bering Memorial Chancel Choir, the Candler Singers and the Spiritual Image groups led the service with traditional and spiritual hymns.
Robert Nelson read the invocation incorporating the “Water Washed, Spirit Born” theme of the 2004 General Conference. Nelson recited “Spirit Moving over Chaos” while washing his hands in the waters of the baptismal font on the worship service stage.
*Witte is communications coordinator for the Nebraska Annual Conference.
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