Bishop Webb proclaims when you know your WHY, your WHAT will have more impact
Opening Worship at the eighth session of Annual Conference took place June 1. Through music, video, a unique Holy Communion, and a powerful sermon, the service zeroed in on the Conference’s theme, “Together in Prayer: Trusting that God is Enough.”
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb’s sermon focused on the importance for members and churches of the Conference to focus on their WHY not their WHAT or HOW, as the Church moves forward.
“This message was one of the hardest I have ever prepared,” he said.
Bishop Webb reminded the crowd that the WHY is our mission, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
“We must offer to a despairing world the good news of Jesus—through our actions and in our words,” he said. “If we keep the WHY primary, I know, I believe, I trust that God will show us the way into the WHAT and HOW.”
Bishop Webb showed a video that illustrated what happens when one focuses on their WHY. In the video, comedian Michael Jr. calls on a random audience member during the middle of a comedy show in Winston-Salem, N.C. He asked the gentleman, Daryl Duff, what he does for a living. Daryl answered that he’s a musical director.
Michael Jr. then asked Daryl to give him a couple bars of Amazing Grace. Daryl did as was instructed and wowed Michael Jr. Then, Michael Jr. said, “Now, I want you to give me the version as if your uncle just got out of jail and you got shot in the back when you were a kid. You know, what I am saying; I want you to give me the ‘hood’ version.” Daryl sang with all of his heart using an astounding range — audience members got up when he was finished to embrace him, pat him on the back, and to compliment him.
After showing the video, Bishop Webb said, “When you know your WHY, your WHAT has more impact.”
Bishop Webb expressed that God is enough for the future we face. He used 17 biblical examples of God being enough from when “Noah built, loaded, and lived in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights” to “when the stone was rolled away and sin and death were forever defeated.” The crowd’s applause crescendoed with each example he gave.
Bishop Webb explained that the members of the UNY Conference have to start living the truth that God is enough. He recalled what Bishop Felton May used to say after he preached; he said, “Many times, when Bishop May preached, he ended with these words, ‘Do you believe it? Then, act like it!’”
“I need to turn from not trusting that God is enough!” Bishop Webb said. “We need to turn from not trusting that God is enough. I believe God is enough. I need to start acting like it!”
Bishop Webb then concluded his sermon by reminding the crowd of the importance of unity. He showed a video of a young boy, Rick, who was unable to walk due to a tragedy during his birth. When he was 15, Rick told his father Dick that he wanted to run a race. Rick was wheel-chair-bound, so Dick decided to enter a race wheeling his son. That one race turned into many races, with Dick and Rick running and participating marathons and triathlons together.
“Together has power,” Bishop Webb said.
Holy Communion took place after his sermon, though it was unique than traditional Holy Communion. Members of the Conference were invited to also receive ashes as an outward and visible mark of their repentance and posture of humility.
The offering collected during Opening Worship helps support the new Mission Central HUB at the United Methodist Center of Upper New York. The chair of the Mission Central HUB steering committee, the Rev. Jeff Hale, came to the mic to express the importance of the offering.
“Our 5,800 square-feet of warehouse space will allow us to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus … our new HUB will allow us to do more mission work than ever … What we need is prayer, ideas, resources, and time,” Rev. Hale said. “Please prayerfully and I hope generously give so that our Mission Central HUB can have a ripple effect throughout our Conference and the world.”
In his benediction of Opening Worship, Bishop Webb referred to Ephesians 3: 1-6, where Paul wrote for the Ephesians to be completely humble and gentle, bearing with one another in love and to preserve the unity of the Spirit. Referring to the possibility of preserving the unity of the Spirit, Bishop Webb then said, “Do you believe it? Let us act like it. Go in peace.”