Bishop's Journal


 

9/30/2015 

 

Nobody Ever Explained It to Me Quite So Clearly

Everybody but Sam had signed up for a new company pension plan that called for a small employee contribution. The company was paying for the rest of the cost of the plan. Unfortunately, 100 percent employee participation was needed; otherwise the plan could not be implemented. Sam’s boss and his fellow workers pleaded and cajoled Sam to sign, but all of their efforts failed.  Sam was convinced that the plan would never deliver what it promised. Finally, the company president called Sam inside his office and said, “Sam, here’s a copy of the new pension plan and here’s a pen. I want you to sign the papers. I’m sorry, but if you don’t sign, you’re fired, as of right now.” Sam took the pen and signed the papers immediately. “Now, would you mind telling me why you couldn’t have signed earlier?” said the president.  “Well sir, nobody up to this point had ever explained it to me quite so clearly before,” replied Sam.           

Like the president, I believe the Holy Spirit is trying to help us understand with heart and head that if laity and clergy can sign-on together to employ all the gifts the Holy Spirit has showered upon us, we can become the people God so desperately desires us to be. Secondly, as we become the person—the people—God created us to be, POWER is unleashed in and through us to be blessed and to be a source of blessing to our families, our communities and to this hurting world.

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, nearly 500 laity and clergy gathered at the Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson to find out how we can be the disciples Jesus died for us to become. Those that gathered were from all 11 of our districts. So, I believe there is a good chance that at least one or more persons who attended were friends or fellow disciples of your congregations or neighboring congregations.

Ask them and others about this “Glory Sighting” that occurred in Jackson. In fact, ask them what is a Glory Sighting?  What are Loving, Learning and Leading and what do they have to do with us being the people of God? Maybe you will discover like Sam—“Nobody up to this point had ever explained it to me quite so clearly before.”

 

Blessings,

Bishop James Swanson Sr. 

 

9/2/2015

 

An Invitation to All:
Holy Land Tour with Bishop Swanson

Includes Opportunity for Couples
to Renew Wedding Vows
 

Dear Friends, 

Have you ever read a passage in the Bible and wanted to actually see the place where that episode happened? Maybe you listened to a sermon about the Sea of Galilee that was so vivid that you could almost picture it in your mind.  Perhaps, the sermon stirred within you a desire to not just dream about the Sea of Galilee, but to actually sail it. Well, you are invited to travel with Delphine and I to the Holy Land. The place where Jesus was born, walked among humanity, performed miracles, died for us, and was resurrected.   

We would enjoy walking with you and learning more with you in the land of the Bible. Come walk with us in Bethlehem Capernaum, Nazareth, Jericho, the Garden of Gethsemane and Jerusalem.  

For couples who desire to renew wedding vows for their 2016 anniversary, this tour includes an opportunity for you to do that during our visit to Cana. This is the site of Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding.  We will be there with you!

The Holy Land tour is February 11-20, 2016 and the registration deadline is quickly approaching.  Click here for more information, or you may contact Joy Carr at carrhaus@comcast.net for details too. We don't want you to miss out on this rich experience. Come and be blessed!

 

7/8/2015

 

Bishop Swanson’s Statement on Same –sex Ruling

 

To the Mississippi Conference,

I send to you holy greetings while I am on renewal leave. I write to you in the wake of last week’s decision by the Supreme Court that same-sex marriage is legal in all states and the District of Columbia of the United States.

I realize that this decision was met with different reactions by United Methodists throughout our conference. I ask that as you respond to this decision that your response be grounded in a sound interpretation of the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court as explained in the written decision. The question that I believe is foremost upon the minds and hearts of United Methodist clergy and laity is, "How does this affect our church's official position on same sex-marriage?"  A very simple answer is, it does not. Only the General Conference can make a change to our position.

This is affirmed even in the Supreme Court's decision. I would direct your attention to page 27 of the decision where the court points out "... It is to be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned."

In making this statement, the Supreme Court of the United States recognizes that obviously the First Amendment protects religious organizations’ "rights" to teach our principals in accordance with our beliefs.

I am committed to that and to doing so with love, grace and humility. I trust that we all can have the same spirit.
 
Yours in Christ,

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
 

In addition to this statement, the Council of Bishops Executive Committee has also released a statement

 

5/13/2015

 
 

The picture of me above was taken on May 3, 2015 inside the Reichstag Building in Berlin, Germany. In case you do not know of the Reichstag, it is the building where the German Bundestag (the equivalent of our Congress) meets. The significance of the date May 3 is that it marks the 70th anniversary of the Fall of Berlin, eventually leading to the end of World War II (ending the terror of Adolf Hitler and those that followed him).

In the picture you will notice that my left hand is resting on a black block. You can also see several white labels. The white labels are the names of every person that has served in the Bundestag. The black block represents the period 1939-1945.  This is the era that Hitler served as the Chancellor of Germany. No names are recorded for this cycle. It is evident that the leadership of Germany is determined to remember what happened during Hitler's reign and the atrocities committed during Hitler's regime. They are also committed to remembering the silence of those that should have spoken up. 

When hatred and evil goes unchallenged, we can live to regret it. I was impressed that Germany is doing all it can to keep in mind what happened and not to do what many seek to do when history is so painful – forget that it happened. Every time I see the sign of our faith, the "old rugged cross," I'm reminded of the cruel death of our Lord by those who hated him.  But the cross was not the end of the story, just like the evil perpetrated by Hitler was not the last word. There was and is the empty tomb. 

 

Blessings,

Bishop James Swanson Sr. 

 
4/29/2015

 

Dear Mississippi Conference:

We join our hearts and voices with those of our fellow Methodist around the world in sending our prayers and support to those in Nepal and parts of India that were affected by the recent earthquake.

Below is a message from the World Methodist Council that was released on April 27, 2015.

 

Blessings,

Bishop James Swanson Sr.

 

Following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake this weekend in Nepal that claimed thousands of lives and thousands more injured, the World Methodist Council Social Justice & International Affairs Committee issued the following statement on behalf of the World Methodist Council:
 
We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the victims of the earthquake in Nepal, their families, and the surrounding nations. We pray for The Nepal Methodist Church to continue its mission and purpose amidst these difficult circumstances, and we acknowledge the relief and mission work being done by the Methodist-Wesleyan family members in that country. We ask that all continue to join hands in prayer for the victims and those who are affected. We pray and ask that the Methodist-Wesleyan family further engage in actions that will assist the country to move forward after this incident, following the words of John Wesley to, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” We believe that Jesus Christ continuously spread peace in the world, and we pray for His peace to cover all of the families affected.
 
To follow relief efforts on the ground in Nepal, please visit one of our Member Church links below:

Please send updates or additional links to communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org

 

 
4/1/2015

 

                                            A Moment That Would Last 

It was two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and legal experts through cunning tricks were searching for a way to arrest Jesus and kill him. But they agreed that it should not happen during the festival; otherwise, there would be uproar among the people. Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon who had a skin disease. During dinner, a woman came in with a vase made of alabaster and containing very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke open the vase and poured the perfume on his head. Some grew angry. They said to each other,

"Why waste the perfume? This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay and the money given to the poor." And they scolded her. Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. You always have the poor with you; and whenever you want, you can do something good for them. But you won’t always have me. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body ahead of time for burial. I tell you the truth that, wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her." (Mark 14_1:1-9 CEB)

In 1973, songwriters, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, penned the lyrics to one of Barbra Streisand's most popular songs "The Way We Were." It is a beauty song that flows with beautiful string instruments and movements that take you on a journey (if you are prone to let your thoughts get lost in lyrics and music that tell stories). Read the lyrics of the song and reflect on them in light of the Mark text where Jesus says of the woman that anoints his feet with expensive perfume,     

“She has done a good thing for me...But you won't always have me. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body ahead of time for burial. I tell you the truth that, whenever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she's done will also be told in memory of her."

Now review the Bergmans' words to “The Way We Were.”

"Memories, light the corners of my mind.

Misty watercolor memories of the way we were

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind

Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were

Can be that it was all so simple then or has time rewritten every line?

If we had the chance to do it all again tell me would we? Could we?

Memories, may be beautiful and yet what's too painful to remember we simply choose to forget

So it's the laughter we will remember whenever we remember the way we were"

 

Memory is a gift from God. It is a psychological process in which involves three stages. 

First, the ability to receive, understand and process information. Some refer to this as encoding. Second, the ability to store or create a permanent record of the information that you have received, processed and understood. Third, the ability to recall or retrieve the stored information by uses a clue, or a marker that helps to initiate the recall procedure. 

This is a gift to humanity bestowed upon us by the Creator. It is a God given gift. Think with me for a minute about how lost we would be if we did not have this gift of memory. There would be no accumulative effect of learning, no ability to communicate intelligently. There would be no sense of family or any such thing as organized religion, or a faith in Jesus without memory. Jesus literally declares that this woman's act of generosity insures that whenever "The Good News" is proclaimed, she will always be remembered. She will be remembered. It was an act of unselfish giving. She put the needs of another ahead of her own needs. And for this deed the story of this woman continues to be told.   

This story remains with us to ask all who hears it, "What will you do with your life that will cause others to recall that incident as a mile marker that points others to Jesus?" Will your life be one that inspires others to think of Jesus? Are you willing to give of yourself in such a way that others will see it as a sacrifice of praise?  Will your life be a sweet memory? Will you take advantage of opportunities that come your way to leave a marker that will remind the world that at one point in your life you surrendered your life to the Glory of God?

I pray for all of us that we would through the grace of God and that we would all experience in our life, a moment that would last

 

Blessings,

Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.

 

 

         

3/4/2015
Our Best Weapon is Prayer  
I consider myself blessed to be born to a mother who introduced me to Christ at an early age.  She insisted that I attend church with her and my two sisters. Those formative years at Green Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church taught me that I was loved without reservation by God and need not do anything to earn that love. Though I was born during legalized segregation in the state of Texas, I was still taught to love everyone and to treat them with dignity and respect. I love Jesus and my church, The United Methodist Church with my heart, my mind and all my being. But I don't believe that love of Jesus or Church calls for me to attack or to murder those that don't believe as I do. The thought of this is abhorrent to me.
This probably explains why some people are having such a difficult time accepting that there are people like those that are soldiers of ISIS who pillage, maim and kill in the name of Allah to justify their acts of violence, while insisting that they are the real followers of Islam. 
My experience with God has shown me that the more I grow in my relationship with God, the more I love people. People who agree with me and people who downright hate the stances, I take. I discover that --it is not God's will that any perish but that ALL come to eternal life. The more God fills my life, the less room there is in my heart for hatred.  Instead of despair, I am comforted and my spirit is lifted by the great hymn - "Be not dismayed whatever betide, God will take care of you."
In the wake of the violence against Christians by the forces of ISIS, I ask you to join me on the Sunday preceding Palm Sunday by praying the prayer below.  It was inspired by Bishop Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference and composed by Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Conference. 

God of us all, 

You love us so passionately that you sent Your Son to help us
experience the fullness of divine love. And while we love you, we are not
often asked to risk our lives because of our faith.

This is not true for many of our sisters and brothers in Christ. Our
hearts break as we see more of them suffering and dying simply because
they are living as disciples of Jesus.

We pray for their safety and sanctuary. We pray that you will give them
grace in suffering.  We are humbled by the witness of these martyred for
their faith.  We pray for their persecutors, and that acts of violence and
persecution will cease.

Help us to grow in our commitment to live as Jesus' disciples. Remind
us that we are the One Body of Christ: when one member suffers, all
suffer. Stir us to pray unceasingly. And empower us to speak boldly.

We pray all of this in the name of our Savior and Lord, Jesus the
Christ.

Amen. 

Blessings,
Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.

Teach Your Children

    God continues a conversation with Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 11 of some very specific actions that God took on behave of the Israelites that God expects Moses and the elders to incorporate into the lives of their children. God says to Moses in verse 19. 

Teach them to your children, by talking about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. (Deut. 11:19)

What God has done for God’s people, God doesn’t ever want us to forget. Our history is a record, not just of human events but a record of God’s intervention into our lives. History is important enough to God that God commands Moses and the adults to “Teach them to your children…” If you go back and read verses 2-7 of this chapter from The Message translation, it reads:

2-7 Today it’s very clear that it isn’t your children who are front and center here: They weren’t in on what GOD did, didn’t see the acts, didn’t experience the discipline, didn’t marvel at his greatness, the way he displayed his power in the miracle-signs and deeds that he let loose in Egypt on Pharaoh king of Egypt and all his land, the way he took care of the Egyptian army, its horses and chariots, burying them in the waters of the Red Sea as they pursued you. GOD drowned them. And you’re standing here today alive. Nor was it your children who saw how GOD took care of you in the wilderness up until the time you arrived here, what he did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab son of Reuben, how the Earth opened its jaws and swallowed them with their families—their tents, and everything around them—right out of the middle of Israel. Yes, it was you—your eyes—that saw every great thing that GOD did. (Deut. 11:2-7)

Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week in the second week of February 1926.   He did this because he felt that the history taught in our public schools ignored the contributions of African Americans.  He also wanted so desperately to increase the educational level of blacks and whites so that coupled together with the social and professional contact would lead to a reduction of racial animus. 

I encourage our churches to celebrate Black History Month because even a glimpse into the history of African Americans will clearly reveal what the children of Israel must know as they hear their history repeated--God was with us.  Can you imagine being an Egyptian during this great Exodus and witnessing this awesome deliverance with the full knowledge that the slaves could never win in a battle against the highly trained and skilled army of Pharaoh?  Yet time and time again the Hebrews prevailed. This was not just a display for the Hebrews; it was God revealing God’s self to the Egyptians, as well. There would be no winners and losers.  And if we tell our story of our experience with God, our children and our children’s families will come to know this God whom we worship, love and serve. 

Blessings,
Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.