“Feed My Sheep”

Tampa, Florida, May 4, 2012—The preacher put a hard question to the audience: Do United Methodists love Jesus more than they do all the denominational trappings, debating, and number counting?

On the night before the last day of the denomination’s 2012 legislating General Conference, Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey reminded the almost 1,000 delegates and a host of guests that Jesus’ last mandate to his disciples, to show love for him, was “Feed my sheep.”

“Are we feeding Jesus’ sheep?” the bishop asked. “Are we offering everyone food for the soul, the food of hope, the bread of life?”

The sermon came after two days of heated debates on how to restructure the denomination and on ethical issues, including the church’s views on homosexuality.

The episcopal leader of the Dakotas Area, Bishop Kiesey used as her text the appearance of Jesus to his fishermen disciples, the last post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to followers in the Gospel of John, chapter 21. It is the story of how Jesus appears to the men in the boat, as a stranger on the shore, and asks if they are catching anything.

“No,” they respond. Well, then, the stranger indicates, try on the other side. The catch is great.

Later, on shore, Jesus has a fire going to cook fish for breakfast. He three times asks Peter if he loves him. Peter, getting a little irritated, says, “You know I do.”

“Feed my lambs… tend my sheep….feed my sheep,” Jesus tells him.

“Lord,” said Bishop Kiesey, “we have spent two weeks in Tampa doing your work; doesn’t that prove how much we love you?” She had doubts. While acknowledging the importance to millions of what the delegates do in Tampa, she said, “What matters is to care for the lambs.”

The sermon was followed by a hymn, “Until All are Fed,” and by a “love feast,” a particularly Methodist observance that is not a sacrament but involves the sharing of bread. The service in Tampa used hot-cross buns, which the delegates broke and offered to one another.

Bishop Kiesey said that the church, like the disciples, has a way of falling back into familiar ways—the disciples to fishing. But, she asked, does the church pay attention to the stranger on the shore who makes new proposals about where to fish, and who turns out not to be a stranger at all but the familiar figure of Jesus?

“Jesus is calling one more time,” she said.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Church Growth
The Rev. Lovett H. Weems Jr. Photo courtesy of Wesley Theological Seminary.

Young elder numbers near historic low

United Methodist clergy age study shows modest growth period has been followed by drops in the number of both men and women elders under age 35.
General Conference
The North Texas Conference voted at its Sept. 19 annual meeting to submit legislation to General Conference 2021 that would begin the process of changing the church’s Cross and Flame insignia. Logo courtesy of United Methodist Communications.

Conference backs replacing Cross and Flame

North Texas Conference joins pastor in saying the insignia of The United Methodist Church is, inadvertently, racially insensitive.
Racism
The Rev. David Maldonado. Video image courtesy of IMU Latina (Iglesia Metodista Unida Latina) via YouTube by UM News.

Racism and Latinos: The wall of separation and fear

The U.S.-Mexico border wall speaks volumes about attitudes toward Latinos, and the church must do more to respond.