By Daniel R. Gangler
“Know Who You Are” was the theme of the ordination sermon delivered Thursday night by Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of the Louisiana Conference and former executive director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief before being elected a bishop in the church.
She opened with the prophet (Isaiah 43:16-19) saying, “Look, I’m doing a new thing.” Then she asked those to be commissioned and ordained, “What kind of person are you? What is your story? What will you tell your children, and what will they tell their children?”
“So here you are. You are at the threshold of an incredible journey. You have arrived with a great deal of hard work and I hope a bit of fear and trepidation… You have a story to tell. You have heard God’s call on your life. And you followed the path before you,” she said.
She warned that it’s not an easy path, but one you will intersect with people on their journey in profound ways. Others have gone before you. “These pathfinders can tell you a little bit about what’s ahead…, but the path you will go is quite different than theirs.”
She also warned that “today’s church is not your mommy’s and daddy’s church. It’s more treacherous, certainly trickier… You stand on the shoulders of giants – on pathfinders of the faith. When hands are laid on your hands, you will feel the weight. It’s a responsibility that rests with you.”
The bishop then turned to the laity of the audience saying, “Clergy are not the only Christians with credentials.” Baptism is your credentials and you too are called.
She talked about integrity from the book If You Know Who You Are Then You Will Know What to Do. From the book, she said: “Integrity is doing the right thing when we know it’s the right thing to do… It means knowing who we are then being true to the lives to which we have been called.”
She said, “If I had one wish for you tonight, it would be that you live a life of integrity. Knowing who you are and fully understanding your own story so you can hear the stories of others.”
Other quotables from her sermons, include these:
- One of the challenges of The United Methodist Church today is that we don’t know who we are. We’ve lost our souls. We don’t hear, or see or feel with our souls like we used to.
- Our job is not to save the church. Our life’s work is to bring people to Christ. I’m not called to institution preservation. I’m called to transform the world.
- Our life’s work is to share the love of God, so others can know the living God.
- People want to be part of a great movement. People invest in dreams they can be a part of. I want us to recapture the Wesleyan spirit. The time is now – today. Tomorrow will be too late.
- We have to focus on that which makes for a different place for your children and your children’s children that they might have a story of faith to tell.
- Don’t get distracted by the things of the world, or by the things of the church. Focus on your first love. What called you to this at the first place?
- Be the best that you can be – that’s enough.
- I am convinced that God is doing a new thing in you, in me, in this annual conference, in the entire United Methodist Church. I am not willing to accept that the church should go into hospice care. I am not willing to accept that death is imminent for us. What I do accept is that the church as you and I know it might not exist in the near future like we know it, but I believe in the resurrection and I believe that new way of being church will emerge… When the Spirit stirs, who knows what might happen? Be prepared for the surprises of the Spirit.
She challenged those to be ordained “being who you are, and I promise the spirit will spin it, churn it, twist it and weave it into a story of legacy. You have a story to tell – of super-natural calling, of sacrifice, of joy, of suffering – and the moving of the spirit.
The prophet (Isaiah) said, “God is trying to build a pathway through the wilderness… This new thing will spring forth like waters that water the desert.
“God’s story is a story of hope,” she proclaimed. “God leads us into a future we are not able to see or perceive… But you have to know who you are… Can you see your story unfolding before your very eyes?”
During the service, Bishop Mike ordained one deacon and 12 elders as well as commissioned four deacons and 11 elders. And Madeline Grace Lantz, daughter of Rev. Christopher and Rev. Andrea Lantz, was baptized.