Previewing 2020 Annual Conference with Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
In this episode of Louisiana NOW, we visit with Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey and preview 2020 Annual Conference which has been postponed to Saturday November 21st online, via ZOOM. For more information on 2020 Annual Conference, please head to our web site: www.la-umc.org
Nothing Can Separate You From the Love of God - Summer Guest Series: Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey July 26th, 2020
Foundry UMC DC: Sunday Sermons
Live Life as if... Nothing Can Separate You From the Love of God Foundry UMC DC July 26, 2020 I am so thankful to be with you today. What a privilege! I have been looking forward to being with you in person but well you know what they say about the best laid plans.... We are all getting used to this virtual platform and while it is likely to be with us for a while, I miss being in community, singing hymns – we are built to be in community. I give thanks every day for this less than perfect option of connecting with people. I have worshiped in more churches than ever before, attended more meetings and even have enjoyed a meal with family and joined with friends each week for a virtual Happy Hour. So, here we are together in this unique and what now seems normal way. Like many of you, I keep looking for something normal, something familiar. One way I have done that is to return to familiar scripture. Scripture that has spoken to me in the past. Scripture like Isaiah 43 – Don’t fear for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name – you are mine. Or Psalm 139.... you are marvelously and wonderfully made – I actually like this better in Spanish – the passion in some words just doesn’t translate – maravillosas son tus obras – I love the word maravillosa! So, can you imagine my surprise when I realized that today’s lectionary text was Romans 8:26-39? The Spirit comes to help our weakness. When we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us. We know that God works all things together for good If God is for us who could possibly be against us? Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Hardship? NO Distress? NO Persecution? NO Famine? NO Nakedness, peril, sword? NO Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth no anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Friends, NOTHING. NOT A THING can separate us from the love of Christ. No pandemic, no injustice, no economic uncertainty, no church separation. NOTHING can separate us from Christ’s love. Now this doesn’t mean you live a haphazard life – it does mean that you live in the confidence of God’s unfailing, unfaltering, never changing love. I call that grace! There is the assurance, the freedom in living as if nothing can separate you from God’s love. If you follow me long enough you will quickly learn that it is not a Cynthia Harvey sermon without at least one reference to Frederick Buechner. Here what he says... We are above all things loved – that is the good news of the gospel – and loved not just the way we turn up on Sundays in our best clothes and on our best behavior and with our best feet forward, but loved as we alone know ourselves to be, the weakest and shabbiest of what we are along with the strongest and gladdest. To come together as people who believe that just maybe this gospel is actually true // should we come together like people who have just won the Irish Sweepstakes. It should have us throwing our arms around each other like people who have just discovered that every single man and woman in those pews is not just another familiar or unfamiliar face but is our long-lost brother and our long-lost sister because despite the fact that we have all walked in different gardens and knelt at different graves, we have all, humanly speaking, come from the same place and heading out into the same blessed mystery that awaits us all. This is the joy that is so apt to be missing, and missing not just from church but from our own lives – the joy of not just managing to believe at least part of the time that it is true that life is holy, but of actually running into holiness head-on. Ya’ll this captures in my mind the joy that comes from loving and being loved. We run into holiness head-on! The world is turned upside down and those of you who live in the DC area feel that fragile state perhaps even more. Hardly anything in our every day life seems familiar. There is the health pandemic, racial pandemic, economic pandemic, political pandemic – things most of us have never seen, heard or experienced. In the midst of the upsidedowness, it is comforting to imagine the holiness of love – God’s love - in the midst of chaos. Holiness and love in the midst of injustice. Holiness and love in the midst of uncertainty. Joe is a wonderful man in our Conference. He is passionate and very active in United Methodist Men. You will not get past him ever – whether he knows you or not – without him asking you perhaps the most important question of the day, “ has anybody told you they love you today?” Then he gives you a giant smile and hug and says, “I love you, God loves you.” There are days at Annual Conference that I look for Joe because I need to hear those words. Sometimes we need people like Joe to remind us that God loves us. What if someone stumbled into this livestream. What would they hear, what would they experience? I know it is a little harder these days but could they experience the love of God? Would they get a sense that this is a place where they can experience bumping into and falling into holiness? Would they know this is a place where they can be loved no matter what because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Loving might be next to breathing -- both being most natural and also most difficult both a requirement to be truly alive. Did the Beatles have it right...All You Need Is Love? The lyrics for this commissioned piece were intended to be simple since it had to be understood by everyone around the world. There was actually criticism that the lyrics and the general sentiment were naïve. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game. All you need is love....love is all you need. They really wanted to give the world a message that could not be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything. We know this to be true. The scriptures are filled with references to love. Not romantic love but the love of God. The Gospels are chocked full with messages of love that say to people like you and me that love is everything. To love and be loved by another and most importantly by God is everything. The great commandment, “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being and with all your mind. You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” No other commandment is greater than these Jesus said. Really? No other commandment! The Beatles and others might claim that love is easy – we know it is not. Yet there is no other commandment that is greater than to love as God loves. Love no matter what. Love as if there is nothing can get in the way of it! Our call is to personify love, to be love to a world that might not know love. Love is a gift. Love is a verb. It is something that you do - something that you give. Love that is inseparable. When we love as God loves us we move into a thin place – a threshold place, an entrance, a place filled with possibility, a messy yet fulfilling kind of place, a place where we bump up against the holy. We have all had those experiences when we find ourselves in those places where we are overtaken by an extraordinary sense of love – running into holiness head on. The birth of a baby. The death of a loved one. A wedding, Graduation, Ordination. You are a gift to the church. At a time when our world and our church is in turmoil, you are here! You keep turning up week after week because somewhere, somehow you know that nothing can separate you from God’s love. You are running into the holiness we call love head-on. There is a whole world out there that needs to know this kind of love. As the church we love faces possible schism, splintering, and brokenness over LGBTQ matters - you continue to show up and say not on my watch! I love too much. I love like God loves. You know that everyone deserves to love and be loved. You know that to God there is no distinction – slave or free, greek or jew, male or female – there are no distinctions for we are all made in the image of God. Don’t ever let anyone tell you ever again that you are incompatible with Christian teaching. How can that even be? If you are a child of God, made in the image of God HOW IN THE WORLD CAN ANYONE SAY THAT ANYONE IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIAN TEACHING???? That would be like saying that you are incompatible with God. That very statement is antithetical to the gospel. Nothing separates us from the love of God. But here we are in this unprecedented place. The world, our communities and the United Methodist Church has not ever seen anything like this. Who knows what will happen? Yet you are here! The world has shifted, the church has shifted! Yet you are here! God is still calling people! God is calling you! You know that fear and love cannot go together! You know that love casts out all fear. You have been called by love – God’s love for you and your call to love neighbor. For our founder, John Wesley all that God is and God does is motivated by love. Author Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, a Nazarene and holiness scholar said in “A Theology of Love” that to be Wesleyan is to be committed to a theology of love. Love was probably no easier for Wesley than it is for some of us. He was not easy to love and I am guessing it wasn’t easy for him TO love. He was a quite a rebel. He fought the establishment and challenged the status quo. John Wesley was denied the opportunity to preach in his home church. So, Wesley went to the only plot of ground that actually belonged to him – his father’s grave and it was from there that he preached - just outside the church. I would guess that Wesley was not loved by the establishment. He was criticized for his unorthodox ways. He preached outside the church walls which was considered evil to the Anglicans. As Methodists we are part of a legacy of reluctance and resistance. Strangely comforting isn’t it? Remember your baptismal covenant to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Resistance is baked into each of us! Our Wesleyan legacy is one of love and an assurance that in all things, God is with us – nothing separates us from the love of God. There is someone out there waiting for someone just like you to share the unmatchable, unfathomable love of God that can overcome COVID, racial injustice, human sexuality. They are waiting for you! Right, left, Republican, Democrat, traditionalist, progressive, gay, straight and everything in between – they are waiting for you to show them what living life as if nothing can separate you from the love of God looks like. They are waiting for you to love them, to help them order their life by love. If you show them love – they will love you. You will teach them and they you that, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Because to disciple is to love and to love is to disciple. Love is the bedrock of the Gospel. It is the bedrock of who we are and who we are called to be. We are made in the image of God to carry out a life of love. A love that punches holes in the darkness. A love that sees the hunger for acceptance in a person’s life. A love that speaks truth into the world. This is courageous love. WE need to be that person to those who are living on life’s ragged edge and yes, even those who seem to have it all together but don’t. We all need to know that we are not only loved but BE-LOVED. That we are a child of God - chosen by God! We are God’s beloved sons and daughters - chosen to help mend broken people, broken communities, broken homes. We are God’s beloved chosen to love as God loves. Our call to love can change the trajectory of the world. Our call to love can change people, situations, and circumstances. Our call to love can change this church. It can change the United Methodist Church. Our call to love can change YOU!
In this episode of Louisiana NOW, we catch up with Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey. We discuss the series of webinars we have been holding on ZOOM with Project Curate. We get her thoughts on why these webinars are so important, the hope she sees in the content, and the struggle that still exists with racial injustice in Louisiana. We also get Bishop Harvey’s thoughts on the rising cases of Coronavirus in Louisiana and what that means for the upcoming Annual Conference. All that and more in this episode of Louisiana NOW. To register for our series of webinars focused on Dismantling Racism, please visit: www.la-umc.org/endracism
In this episode of Louisiana NOW, Todd Rossnagel catches up with Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey to discuss many things. We get an update on the re-entry guidelines, more on what to expect for Annual Conference, more on her recent installation as President of the Council of Bishops and more. To watch Bishop Harvey’s address to the Council of Bishops, please visit: https://youtu.be/O36Pul3Dd04
Preparing for Easter, A Conversation with Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
Recently Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey carved out some time on Zoom and we discussed a wide variety of topics as we prepare for Holy Week. Bishop Harvey opens up about her morning routine, long walks, and life at home during these days of self-isolation. She also says this year’s Holy Week is an opportunity to get creative and shares some ideas. However, as different as this year’s Holy Week will be, she reminds us to do something very simple - read the Easter story. For more on the Easter resources we’ve pulled together for Easter 2020, please head here: https://www.la-umc.org/easter2020
Matters in the world are changing on an almost hourly basis. As we reached out to Bishop Harvey in hopes of recording this particular episode, we scheduled the recording Wednesday afternoon. As our recording time got close, it looked as if news from the larger denomination regarding General Conference and its potential postponement would come down at any moment. In fact, the news broke in the middle of our recording – you’ll hear that and you’ll hear her response to that news. Bishop Harvey speaks from the heart in this podcast – lifting up the many ways pastors all across the Conference are embracing new ways to worship – her fears for what may be ahead – her hopes for what might be ahead — and what’s giving her joy in these days.
Todd Rossnagel sits down with Bishop Harvey to discuss everything from the Mediation Protocol to Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow. Listen to the debut of the Louisiana NOW podcast. To read more about Bishop Harvey, please head here: https://www.la-umc.org/ourbishop To read more about the Protocol Legislation and Agreement, please visit: https://www.gracethroughseparation.com/ To read more about Annual Conference 2020, which is scheduled for June 10-13 in Shreveport, LA, please visit here.
And They Saw, and They Went -- Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, of the Louisiana Area of the United Methodist Church, shares how an encounter with Jesus can change one’s perspective for the rest their life. (VOICED BY PROFESSIONAL TALENT) FULL TRANSCRIPT 0:01 When women come together there's nothing we cannot do. Welcome to the WellSprings Journal Podcast, where you will hear from women who have been called by God into lives to speak grace and compassion, that share pain and anger, and that dance life's joys and laughter. Inspiration to call forth your creative spirit awaits. Listen now. 0:34 And They Saw, and They Went – By Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, of the Louisiana Area of the United Methodist Church The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi, . . . where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see.” So they went and saw. John 1:35-39 – Common English Bible 1:14 And they went, and they saw; or is it they saw, and they went? John is standing by with two of his disciples when Jesus comes along. John says, “Look! The Lamb of God.” The two hear what John says and they follow Jesus. In two verses, they followed Jesus! They don’t ask any questions. They don’t ask, “You sure that’s him? How do you really know, John?” What follows is a domino effect; Andrew, one of the two, goes straight to his brother Simon and says, “We have found the Messiah.” He leads him right to Jesus. The next day Jesus finds Philip, and Philip follows. I wonder if he was lost? Then Philip finds Nathanael, and says, “We have found the one Moses wrote about.” Nathanael is a bit sarcastic, and that’s when we hear his famous line, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Then it’s as if Philip double-dog dares him and says, “Come and See.” See for yourself! 2:18 This calling of the disciples comes quickly. There is a lot of seeing and hearing in the Gospel of John. The writer employs all the senses, which might help us understand why seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling might be important to believing. Once a person meets Jesus—once you see, and hear and taste and smell life in Jesus—you don’t see things the same way ever again. It is risky business to enter into conversation with Jesus. Who knows where it might take you? Sometimes it takes just two words: Follow me! When we traveled to the Holy Land with the ordinands in 2013, we had a magnificent guide. He is smart, knows his Bible and his history. He also comes from a long line of olive wood carvers. Actually, they are more than just carvers, they are artists. His father and grandfather were both artists, and now he is following in their footsteps. 3:19 On the trip, I fell in love with one of his pieces, truly a piece of art! It is Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. He agreed to carve a special piece for us that would be shipped to us later. Several weeks passed, and a magnificent—and I would add huge—piece of olive wood art arrived at the episcopal residence. It is far more than I ever imagined. We found a perfect place for it in our home, and it has become the center of a great deal of conversation. Last year, our guide visited Baton Rouge, and we invited him to dinner, along with several people who had traveled to the Holy Land. Of course, the olive wood piece was once again the center of conversation. The carving is so intricate. Jesus’ hair and eyes are unbelievably detailed. Someone asked our guide if he had a picture to follow as he carved. He said, almost nonchalantly, “No, that is just how I see Jesus in my mind’s eye.” I turned to him in astonishment and said, “In order to carve with this kind of attention to detail, you have got to not just see Jesus in your mind, but you have to see him from the very depth of your soul.” 4:32 I believe this is the kind of “seeing” the gospel writer is trying to convey. People in this gospel see—they come and see, they saw and they went, they see greater things, you will see the heavens open—this kind of seeing is much deeper. It is not just visual. In A Longing for Holiness, John Wesley wrote, “where the loving eye of the soul is continually fixed upon God, there can be no darkness at all.” To see with your soul is to see through the heart of God. Today we are called to “see” through the heart of God. There are several times in this gospel when people see and hear with more than just their ears and their eyes. 5:19 There is the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well, and she can hardly contain herself. A Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman and at high noon! She runs back to her village and says, “Come and see this one who knows everything about me” . . . and you almost want to finish her sentence for her . . . “and loves me anyway.” She is so moved by her experience of Jesus and is in such a hurry to tell everyone in her village that she leaves her jar behind. As soon as her friends hear her story, they leave the city and are on their way. I envision the people being so moved by what the woman has to say (I find it remarkable that they would even listen to her!) that they too want to experience what she has experienced. They probably leave their soup pots on the stove and forget to lock the door (read John 4:1-42). 6:13 There are others who hear and see it and believe it. There is Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She doesn’t recognize Jesus until she hears her name. Maybe seeing and hearing is believing. It is risky to enter into conversation with Jesus. It might lead you to places you don’t want to go. Jesus has a knack for that and for making unlikely choices. He didn’t stand outside the temple waiting for holy people. God shows up most of the time when you are minding your own business. He calls ordinary people to extraordinary tasks so that we might share our story of God’s extravagant love. We have a story to tell. People invest in dreams they are part of. People want to be a part of your kind of story. I have this pesky problem when I read a book or watch a movie or a sporting event. I become a character in the movie or the book. If I watch a basketball game, I play every minute of the game or every down of a football game. I even get nervous on the Food Network cooking competitions, like Chopped, when they have only minutes to prepare an entree. I am exhausted when it’s over. I invest myself in the story, so much so that sometimes I stay up all night trying to “finish” the story or change the outcome of the game, or I think, “You know, if she had only remembered the secret ingredient.” 7:38 People want to be a part of a great story. Do you dream of a love story of ministry filled with the life-giving breath of the Spirit? We must be attentive to the stirring of the Spirit. Proverbs 20:12 reminds us that we must have ears to hear and eyes to see. The Lord made them both! I am not sure we can just see or just hear; perhaps it takes both to fully grasp the working of the Spirit upon our lives. Attentiveness is a gift from God, and it causes us to pay attention most often to what we don’t want to see. Think of all the times you haven’t paid attention and an accident occurred, or we missed the laughter of a child, the homeless woman, the hungry child, the sunrise. We must be attentive and open to the movement of God all around. God often shows up when we are minding our own business. 8:32 When children’s television host Mr. Rogers was asked why he talked so slowly, his answer was that the time between speaking and hearing was sacred. It is in this piece of time that the Spirit can take what is said and translate it for the hearer. This world is in a rush, and we rarely do one task at a time. We are multi-taskers. We don’t just drive; we talk on our cellphones and drive and juggle multiple tasks at work. The Spirit can work within all our rushing around. However, are we as good at noticing the Spirit if we never slow down? It is not likely that our world will slow down. However, maybe within the rush we can be like Mr. Rogers and create a space for the Spirit to move. Instead of listening and forming our reply, we can listen first for the Spirit. Then with fuller knowledge and understanding, we can reply. 9:32 What might happen if we first listen for the Spirit’s stirring? Is it possible we could discover the unexpected? We must be prepared to share our own experience of the living God. We have a story to tell, and people want to be a part of it. Sharing our story can be risky, but we are called to risk, maybe to risk it all so that the world might be changed. We must focus on that which will make for a different place for your children, your children’s children, and their children, that they might also have a story of faith to tell. Can you imagine what might happen if we focused—with laser-like focus—on leading people to Christ so that they might be changed people? Can you imagine living in a changed world? 10:19 We may not yet have eyes to see or ears to hear, but even then the Spirit will twist and turn and churn and weave our lives into a legacy that will set the world on fire. It will be more than you could ever imagine. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and See.” So they went and they saw. Do you know where Jesus is staying? Come and See! 10:53 Thank you for listening to the WellSprings Journal podcast. Be sure to visit WellSpringsJournal.org to find more resources for the journey.