Good afternoon. My name is Cynthia Michelle Moore and I believe in God who is the creator of the universe, who cannot do anything but love, who can do anything but fail, who answers prayer, and whose goodness and mercy has been chasing me down all of the days of my life. I believe in God’s son Jesus, the Christ, who has redeemed and is redeeming me and all of creation. I believe Jesus who is my Lord and savior. I believe Jesus died and was resurrected, and now lives and reigns forever. I believe in God’s Holy Spirit who sustains me and all of creation. I believe God’s spirit speaks to me, guides me, directs me, corrects me, and protects me.
I believe that it is in the power of God’s spirit that I stand before you today as District Superintendent of the Greater Washington District. I believe that it is in the power and wisdom of God’s spirit that I eagerly to proclaim that by the grace of God the Greater Washington District of the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, we will be doing greater things in the name of Jesus.
Let us pray.
I want to thank Katherine for reading the scripture for us today. In fact, I want to thank everybody who helped with worship today. I am not going to take the time to call all of the names of those who gave of themselves to bring this worship experience together, because kick-off for the Ravens is at 8:20 and I want everybody to have ample time to drive home, get some wings and sit in front of the tv. Yes I said Ravens. I am well aware of the story of Ruth and Naomi. I know that Paul said we have to become all things to all people so that we might win a few. And I love the Greater Washington District. But there are some sacrifices that I am just not willing to make. And giving up my Ravens is one of those sacrifices I am just not willing to make. Now, perhaps if the Redskins started doing some greater works, I might be convinced.
I want to thank everybody who helped whether your help involved hours of planning and practice, or involved simply saying a prayer - thank you. It is good to have friends, family, and colleagues to help you along your journey.
Katherine read a familiar passage that is part of a an extended discourse in which Jesus is preparing his disciples for the time when he will no longer be a physical presence with them. The disciples were a little anxious because they could sense something was going to happen - something was going to change, that things were going to be difference, but they didn’t know what or how. Perhaps they had just gotten a new DS or a new Bishop. Perhaps they could sense that the culture around them had changed and they were going to have to do church in a whole new way, but they didn’t know what that new way was. They were a little uneasy, and they were looking to Jesus for some comfort.
And the first thing Jesus did was to remind them of what they believe. Believe in God, he said and believe in me. And believe that I am going to prepare a place for you in God’s house. In other words, believe that you and I and God our Father are going to dwell together from now on. In an attempt to comfort them, Jesus said remember that you believe in God and that you believe in me and remember that I am always going to be with you and you if you follow the way that you know, you will always be with me.
But the disciples were uneasy. An when you are uneasy, stressed out, worried, or anxious that’s when you forget what you know. Have you ever noticed that when you’re anxious about getting to work on time, that’s when you forget where you put your keys. When you are stressed out about your family, that’s when you forget that important birthday or your password or where you parked the car. When we are troubled we forget what we know. And so, it was not surprise that the disciples forgot what they knew.
Thomas said, we don’t know where you are going and Philip seemed to have forgotten that Jesus and the Father are one. Here is what I love, Jesus knew that they were scared and that when people are scared they forget what they know, yet he still lovingly held them accountable for what he knew they knew. In an exasperated tone he asks - Have you not been with me all this time? Do you not know? Have you not heard? Have you not heard what I have been teaching you? Have you not seen the work I have been doing in your midst? Then Jesus’ tone switches from exasperation to a firm resolve. You can tell because he marks it with his familiar phrase very truly, kjv - verily, verily. It’s a term that when it comes at the beginning of a statement means in a firm way, this is the truth.
Believe me and believe in me. Because you believe in me, all the things you have seen me do in your midst, you are going to do that and more. You are going to do greater things in my name so that God might be glorified through me. God is dying to use you to show off who God is. In fact, I’m getting ready to die so that God can use you even more fully to show off who God is.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, very truly I say to you, believe in Jesus and believe in Jesus. All the works that the gospel recorded that Jesus did, through the grace of God we can do that and more. We can bring good news to the poor, we can proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. We can heal the sick and bind up the broken hearted. We can love the unloveable, forgive the unforgivable, include those who have been excluded. We can do that and even greater things in the name of Jesus. We can turn this district upside down.
By the grace of God we’ve already been doing some great things in this district. Each year the churches in this district give away millions of dollars to mission and ministry. Last year, through the grace of God, the churches in this district led almost 500 persons to profess their faith in Jesus Christ for the very first time. By God’s grace on any given week last year there were, on average, over 9000 people in worship in churches on this district. Last year almost 12,000 members of churches in this district were engaged in some kind of hands on mission. There have been a lot of great things going on in this district, but verily verily I say unto you, God is calling us to do greater things in the name of Jesus.
So here is my promise to you. We are going to do great things together. And to help make that happen as an extension of the office of the Bishop, I promise that I will pray with and for you every step of our journey together. And I am going to ask you to pray with and for me. Second, I am going to hold you accountable to remember what you believe and to act like it.
You know this culture we live in is a stressed out, anxious, troubled culture. And it can make us forget what we believe. But I promise you I will hold us all accountable to remember what we believe. The world has already stressed some of us that we have forgotten what we believe.
Some are troubled because they think there is a plan to close certain churches. Do you believe that all the best and worst of man can’t change the master plan, it’s God’s and God’s alone.
Some you us are troubled because there are some things that are going to die. Do you not believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you not believe whatever dies in Christ will rise again with a new resurrected body? Now go with the grace of God and do greater things.
Some are troubled because you think your pastor doesn’t know how to lead. Some are troubled because you think your congregation doesn’t know how to follow. Do you believe that God’s grace is sufficient? Do you believe that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man or woman availeth much? Pray for and with your pastor - notice is didn’t say pray about - pray for and with your pastor. Pray for and with your congregation. Now go with the grace of God and do greater things in the name of Jesus.
Some are troubled because of the diversity within our denomination on theology and social justice and inclusiveness. Do you believe in the power and unity of the Holy Spirit? Do you believe in the day of Pentecost? I belong to a denomination that has split and come back together over issues of slavery and race. Now go with the grace of God and do greater things in the name of Jesus.
Some have been murmuring that there is a DS on the cabinet who has not paid her dues, put in enough time to be a DS. Do you believe that God ever called anyone to leadership based on their seniority or years on the job? Pray with her and for her and God will see to it she has all the gifts and grace needed to lead. Now go with the grace of God and do greater things in the name of Jesus.
There is a prediction that a death tsunami is about to overtake this denomination. Do you believe that Jesus said to the wind and the waves, “Peace be still?” Now go with the grace of God and do greater things in the name of Jesus.
I’m not inviting us to choose to do greater things in the name of Jesus so that people will look at Greater Washington and say what a great district that is. I’m inviting you to choose to cooperate with the grace of God and do greater things in the name of Jesus so that people will look at what we are doing and say, what a great God they serve.
You see while there are during any given week over 9000 people in worship in United Methodist churches and tens of thousands who are worshipping in other denominations, there is at least a million who do not worship anywhere. And if you go to any public place in our district you will see the faces of people who seem to be crying out - take me to the king. They are faces of every shape and skin tone that God created. They are faces that speak languages and dialects that I have never even knew existed. They are faces of people who are unhoused and faces of people who live in gated communities. They are faces of people who are gay and straight and bisexual and transgendered and queer. They are faces of people who are all churched out and never been in church before. They are faces of people who all have this one thing in common - they have not been moved by the great things we are doing and they need to see something greater. They are faces of people who desperately want to find some meaning in their life. They want to find ways to connect with something greater than themselves.
I know some of you are troubled because you are not sure how to do church in a way that reaches those folks who haven’t been moved by the great things we have been doing. Do you believe that God is the creator of the universe? Do you believe that we have been made in the image of God? I believe it. And because I believe it I know that you are creative, resourceful, and whole. I know that with the grace of God you have more than what is needed to meet the challenges of our present time. So I declare you will do greater things in the name of Jesus.
We’ve got some work to do and it’s greater than the work we have already done. And so in preparation for that work I am inviting you to get back in touch with what you believe. I have found the best way for me to do that is to go to the dwelling place. So, I’m inviting you to the altar.
If you are tired of doing mediocre things for Christ; or if you have been doing great things and you are ready to see what greater works God has in store for you, God is dying to use us to show off who God is. In fact, God died so that God