Bishop William Boyd Grove, whose retirement has been interrupted by the call to serve once again as an active episcopal leader, preached on “Metaphors of Interruption” at the ordination and commissioning service of the annual conference at Wesley Chapel June 9.
“What do we do when God’s Anointed One interrupts us to tell us that God’s reign is drawing near to us?” the bishop asked. “We believe, and we act on it. We become ‘doers of the Word and not hearers only.’ “
As the church in the world today, he said, “We are called to something more. We are called to something new. We are called to something different.”
Very important messages warrant interrupting “normal” conversation, he said. He paraphrased Jesus’ message near the beginning of his ministry: “I have come to tell you something important that you need to know. God’s reign is coming near. Look and see it, and believe the Good News.”
He offered three unique strategies for “interruption” to the 14 newly ordained, commissioned and recognized ministers participating in the Friday night service. Using a baseball metaphor, he reminded the congregation, “It isn’t a crime to steal second base.” In fact¸ he called it one of the most exciting moments in sports. Like an anxious pitcher trying to cope with a world-class base runner, he said, “I want the principalities and powers of this world looking over their shoulders at the Church.”
Invoking powerful examples from the first century after Christ, Apartheid in South Africa and the American Civil Rights Movement, he called upon his hearers to be bold in their actions.
His next suggestion also arose from the early history of the church. When Roman soldiers invoked a law that required a bystander to carry his belongings a mile, Christians would offer to go two miles.
“This was an evangelical strategy in the early church,” Grove said. When the soldiers asked, “Why are you doing this?” the response was, “Let me tell you about Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”This helped drive the mass movement of soldiers shifting allegiance to the Christian church.
“Do what’s not expected,” Grove said. “Then the door is open, for your witness.”His third point was, “Be very careful who you put near the door.” A mentally challenged man at one of Grove’s early appointments asked to hand out bulletins in the church doorway so that people like him would think “they’re welcome here.” Grove requested pastors to “put some children near the door, that others might see them. Put some poor people near the door. Put some people with handicapping conditions near the door.”
He fretted aloud about a perceived public viewpoint about Protestant churches, “You don’t come in there unless you’re invited.” He wants everyone to know “they will be welcome.” All these strategies served the goal, he said, of “the whole church, interrupting the whole world, with some Good News, indeed.”
At the conclusion of what is likely his final annual conference sermon as bishop, Grove took a seat beside the pulpit as people rose from their seats to give him a standing ovation.
- Tom Bone
Photo: Bishop William Boyd Grove and Bishop Marcus Matthews process in to begin the service of ordination and commissioning during the 2012 session of the West Virginia Annual Conference. Photo: Laura Allen