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Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar preaches on May 14 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist News Service.

Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar preaches on May 14 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.

Mary Thompson with Worship in Motion from Federal Way United Methodist Church in Auburn, Wash., brings the star of Bethlehem to morning worship at 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Mary Thompson with Worship in Motion from Federal Way United Methodist Church in Auburn, Wash., brings the star of Bethlehem to morning worship at 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.

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Bishop Devadhar: Listen to each other and God

 

By Beth DiCocco
May 14, 2016 | PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS)

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar used the familiar story of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) to urge General Conference delegates to find “a new epiphany” by listening to each other’s perspectives and, most importantly, by listening to God.

With the theme “Going with Courage,” Devadhar, who leads the New England Conference, told those gathered on May 14 for a morning worship service how important it is to be brave enough to listen if we are to arrive at the right place:

“The wise men were not clever enough to find the manger without the erudition of the biblical scholars of the Herodian court,” he said, “but they were willing to listen and discern to arrive at their intended destination. They were, however, wise enough to listen to the voice of God and not return to the insecure king with the news of their having found the Messiah.”

Mary Thompson with Worship in Motion from Federal Way United Methodist Church in Auburn, Wash., brings the star of Bethlehem to morning worship at 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Mary Thompson with Worship in Motion from Federal Way United Methodist Church in Auburn, Wash., brings the star of Bethlehem to morning worship at 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Because the Magi heeded the message from God, Devadhar said, they were able to bring an epiphany, a new perspective.

And the bishop asked, “Friends, what about us? Are we ready to go, with courage, to the places where God is leading us?” And to be, he asked, “a fully inclusive church?”

“May this week be one of soul searching for all of us,” he said. “May we, as Easter people, listen to God fearlessly, and embrace God’s intended path to enable us to lead the church to a new epiphany with the faith and courage of the Pentecost people.”

Not here to fulfill selfish goals

He urged General Conference to look to Jesus.

“We are not here to use the Bible selectively to fulfill our selfish goals and agendas,” the bishop said, “but to look at the ministry and mission of Jesus, and ask the question, with our Wesleyan DNA: ‘Will the 2016 General Conference go down in history declaring that we have offered Christ to the world?’”  

Devadhar spoke of biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, who, in a 2002 sermon titled “39 Missing by Nine Miles,” pointed out that the calculations of the wise men were off by nine miles. The bishop went on to say that he hopes General Conference would not stray off course.

“Together I pray that we will discern the best route. If we choose to go our own way, we may find ourselves off course by nine miles … but if we truly listen to one another and strive to learn from one another, we may correct our course and really find Jesus,” Devadhar said. “Furthermore, if we listen for the voice of God, extraordinary things will happen.”

Devadhar encouraged everyone at General Conference to spend the weekend in “intense prayer and meaningful reflection.” Saying the decisions are in the hands of the 864 delegates, the bishop expressed his hope that “When we leave this place on May 20, we can each say to God, ‘I have been faithful in this Holy Conferencing. I have reflected upon all the views presented to me from a global perspective, including my own local perspective. Yet, when I punched my vote, I listened to You, Lord, and You only!’”

Beth DiCocco is director of communications for the New England Conference. Email her at communicate@neumc.org. Find the New England Conference online at www.neumc.org