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May 6, 2000 GC-027

Worship recognizes ‘world and everybody in it’

CLEVELAND (UMNS) – Bishop Charles W. Jordan called on United Methodists to carry out God’s mission of transforming the "The World and Everybody in It" in his sermon during the General Conference’s May 6 worship service.

"God loves the world and everyone in it," said Jordan, who leads the United Methodist Church’s Iowa Area.

Bishop Walter Klaiber of Germany personified the church’s global mission when he gave the opening prayer, translated from Spanish, in English with a German accent. The service opened another day of business for the 992 delegates, who have come from around the world to the church’s top legislative assembly. General Conference ends May 12.

Jordan told of being at a meeting where a computer ticked off the rising toll of children who died of preventable causes during the session. Last to leave, the bishop turned off the computer, but he knew that did not stop the deaths.

In the United States, he said, 35 million people live in poverty, and the gap between rich and poor is growing. Matthew 25 reminds Christians that Jesus identified with "the least," Jordan said. He challenged the delegates to commit themselves to quality of life for all, including the least.

"God’s gift of love is a gift of transformation," Jordan said. Biblical justice for the poor does not just offer equity before the law but demands new opportunity, he said.

He speculated about rewriting the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus and was told to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. The young man turned away and left, according to the Bible. However, Jordan said he would like to think the man gave the matter careful thought and came running back, begging Jesus to let him stay so that he could grow in spirit. All people need to walk with Jesus to develop their spiritual power, the bishop said.

Jordan told of his paternal grandparents, who were born and raised in slavery. When the news of emancipation reached them, Jordan’s grandfather rushed to the field where his wife was picking cotton. "We’re free," he told her, and she went on working. "We’re free," he said again, and she fell down in the field, sobbing as she realized what he was saying. He offered his hand to help her up, but she said no, he should get down on his knees with her and they should pray that they would use their new freedom well.

"Let us give thanks," Jordan said, "for this gift of God’s love." He urged the delegates to pray for strength and guidance to use it well.

A mass youth choir provided music during the worship service. The group was composed of five choirs: Cantemos, sponsored by the North Georgia Annual Conference Council on Ministries; St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Youth Choir, Houston; Boyz of Gospel, Bennettsville, S.C.; Mansfield (Ohio) District Youth Choir; and Ben Hill United Methodist Church Youth Choir, Atlanta. They were coordinated by Sid Davis of Houston and the Rev. Barbara Day Miller of the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.

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-- Joretta Purdue

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