Our Ascension Mystery: What Have We Learned?
by Barbara Wheeler
Fort Worth, TX, May 2, 2008--Looking forward to Ascension Sunday, United Methodist Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of Mississippi Conference reflected on "the great Christian mystery that illumines our faith" in morning worship at the denomination's General Conference two days before the Ascension celebration on May 4.
"We give thanks for every mysterious movement of God in our midst," she said on the last day of the gathering. "We want to hear the fresh word of God."
Bishop Ward recognized the readiness of delegates to express what they know in speeches and witnesses at General Conference in committee and plenary discussions. But she expressed her hope that when people ask General Conference delegates, "What have you decided?" they will respond by telling what they learned.
"Friends, in this time together we've learned much from each other," Bishop Ward said, emphasizing the importance of the church gathering together and engaging in dialogue.
Hope in the World
She told the story of sisters and brothers in The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe who asked the question in worship the Sunday after Hurricane Katrina had devastated Mississippi in 2005: "Where is Mississippi?" As someone gave the direction, the congregation rose, lifted their hands in the direction of Mississippi, and prayed.
Actions and symbols reveal hope in the world. Bishop Ward lifted up a bent metal spoon shared as a token of remembrance from Hurricane Katrina. A woman in a Mississippi United Methodist church gave the spoon as part of a collection of broken items from the Gulf Coast to General Conference delegates, Bishop Ward said.
"The woman said, 'For 2 1/2 years I haven't been able to throw away this bent spoon,'" Bishop Ward said. "'You've invited me to put it on the altar. I lay it there so it will go to that place [General Conference].'
"We know every hope and hurt of this life is laid before the cross," Bishop Ward said.
As witnesses to this woman's hope--an example in the world of the hope of Christ's resurrection and ascension--delegates were reminded by Bishop Ward: "How glorious to be a witness to how God's moving in the world beyond this place."
*Barbara Wheeler is editor of Response, the official magazine of United Methodist Women.
Date posted: May 02, 2008