Bishop Webb opens worship at AC18 with a message to acknowledge Christ
“Are you persistent in your pursuit of God, or is it a hobby? Do you strive to experience and claim the things of God with the same diligence that you strive to experience and claim the things of the world? ... What is your response when Jesus says ‘Who do you say I am?’”
These are just a few of the questions Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb asked at Opening Worship on May 31 at the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference session held at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.
The theme of this year’s Annual Conference session is Together in Prayer: Boldly Living our Call. In addition to Bishop Webb’s sermon Wade in the Water, worship music was performed by InsideOut, a biblical message from the Gospel of Mark was shared, and two Conference members re-enacted a scene as historical witnesses with sound advice; this service emphasized the importance of acknowledging Christ by boldly living our call.
Phil Eisenman, dressed in a robe, portrayed the role of Daniel. After explaining how he was a faithful Israelite in Babylonian captivity, Daniel shared the following advice: “My lesson for you today: Stay faithful as you boldly acknowledge YHWH. Follow God’s call on your life so that you will be able to find God even in the most unlikely of places and offer YHWH’s love to the world around you. Undergird everything you do with prayer, fasting, and devotion as your let your life acknowledge, follow, and offer the great I AM to the world around you.”
Rebecca Jensen played the role of Georgia Harkness, the first woman to teach theology at an American seminary. She spoke of the importance of loving our neighbors with our whole being – widows, orphans, immigrants, and all on the margins of society. Georgia said, “Develop a hunger to read and learn all you can and offer God by encouraging one another to do the same. No matter where we might find ourselves on the theological spectrum, the meaning of the cross and the power of the resurrection must stand as central to our quest to acknowledge God, follow God, and offer God.”
Lisa Kisselstein shared the Bible passage of Mark 8:27-38, in which Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” Only Peter answers correctly, saying that he is the Messiah. The Rev. Nancy Dibelius, UNY Conference Associate Director of Spiritual Life for Vital Congregations, described the scene where Jesus asks his disciples this important question on a hot, dry, dusty road – she asked the crowd to envision they are on this road with the disciples and to acknowledge how they feel when Jesus says, “Who do you say that I am?”
In Bishop Webb’s sermon, he admits that his answer about who Jesus is isn’t as powerful or as confident as Peter’s response. He reminds the crowd of the truth of Jesus through the following biblical passages:
- Mark 6.35: “I am the bread of life; they who come to Me shall not hunger, and they who believe in Me shall never thirst.”
- John 8.12: “I am the light of the world; they who follow Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”
- John 10.9: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, they shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.”
- John 11.25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life; they who believe in Me shall live even if He dies.”
- John 14.6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
Bishop Webb urged UNY members to acknowledge this identity of Christ. He said, “If we are to boldly live our call – if we are to be effective in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ – our identity must be grounded in the identity of Christ. We must acknowledge Christ! We must acknowledge who Christ is, not based on who the world says he is or based on our ideas, our definitions, our understandings, but on who Jesus said he was in word and in action. We must confess Jesus as our Savior and Lord.”
Bishop Webb described the necessity for all to continue to wade in the waters of their baptismal call. He said, “God stirs our spirits and invites us to wade in the water. With the waters of baptism, God reminds us who we are because of who God is and invites us to wade in the water. With the waters of baptism, we hear God’s 'yes' in our lives, so we can say, 'yes' to God and wade in the water. With the waters of Baptism, we acknowledge who Jesus is, choose to follow His way and become determined to offer Christ in word and action to the world around us.”
Opening Worship ended with Communion, whereby UNY members were asked to reaffirm their Baptismal call. They each selected a stone to carry with them as a reminder to acknowledge Christ and boldly live their call. The Opening Worship offering will support the UNY Mission Central HUB.