COLUMBIA—Life constantly confronts followers of Christ with one crucial decision: will they accept or reject the Gospel message of love and forgiveness?
Bishop J. Jonathan Holston of the S.C. Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church posed the question to about 100 people at the LARCUM prayer service Jan. 26 at Columbia’s Ebenezer Lutheran Church.
The service is an annual tradition that brings together Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and United Methodists in an effort to increase dialogue and understanding. In attendance were Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop Herman R. Yoos of the South Carolina Synod for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.
For the first time, regional leaders from the African Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal Zion denominations also took part in the service.
Bishop Holston’s sermon reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mt 4:12-23, which tells the story of Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave behind their lives a
fishermen and follow him.
He said all Christians are united through their baptism in Jesus Christ and their faith in God, but there will be neither Christian unity nor more justice in the world if believers don’t have the courage to make life-changing decisions like the disciples did.
“What are you going to do with your one and only life?” he asked. “What difference will be made because you are in existence? We have to remember we are called to be the very mouthpiece of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to ask ourselves what God is calling for me to do in my life, and then be willing to do it.”
He told a story about a clergyman he knew who saw a new drugstore that had been built in his small town. The minister tried and tried to remember what had been on the site before, and then finally was saddened and shocked when he realized it had been a church.
“We had to ask how could a church be in the community and leave and no one ever knew it was gone.” Bishop Holston said. “That’s what will happen to our churches if we forget the God of our fathers and mothers, the Gospel and the good news it can bring.”
Repentance and acceptance of God’s love helps people at all levels make a positive difference in the world, he said.
“The light of Christ shines when we help the less fortunate, when we collaborate to make education better for our children, when we work for sufficient health care for all people,” he said. “We’re here because Christ needed someone to be the reflection of his love in the world. God each and every day gives us an offer we can’t refuse. The question is, will we accept the challenge?”
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