Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS
Bishop James Swanson, Jr., preaches on May 18 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.
By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Communications Specialist in the Mississippi Conference
| PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS)
“If you are going to go, there is a shadow figure that follows you also. You need to know that while you go, evil is going also,” Bishop James Swanson Sr. told the delegates to General Conference 2016 in his sermon during May 18 opening worship.
The Mississippi Episcopal Area bishop said that those living out the General Conference theme of “Therefore go” should remember this.
Swanson preached on the passage of Matthew 12:43-45 about an unclean spirit wandering through the dry places in search of a place to rest, then returning home and bringing seven other evil spirits with it.
“They go in and make their home there. That person is worse off at the end than at the beginning. This is the way it will be also for this evil generation,” he said.
Based on this passage, Swanson suggested, “The scripture gives us warning that there is a counterforce at work in this world that seeks to destroy, to bring destruction, to impede, to disrupt, to take over your very soul and thus turn you away from following obediently in the footsteps of Jesus.”
All have sinned and all are in need of cleansing and no one is exempt from actions that are inconsistent with God’s desire for them, Swanson said. He also preached that evil is always looking for a home and people should be mindful of that.
“Evil is not content to be by itself. Evil loves to party and you can’t party by yourself, so evil runs in a pack,” he said. “When evil finds a home that is hospitable, evil goes and gets its crew.”
In a passionate conclusion, Swanson acknowledged there are disagreements within the Church; however, the Church should not be in disagreement about God.
“It’s all right for you to disagree with me but it’s not all right for you to hate me. It’s all right for you to plot to win, but never use the weapons of Satan against the people of God,” cried Swanson.
Duane Anders of Boise, Idaho, reflected on Swanson’s word. “I think it is always good to be reminded of God’s gifts in each one of us, especially when we feel wounded by the other. It is really easy to dehumanize each other and not see God in each other and to feel like a loser or winner,” he said.
Elizabeth Schindler, a reserve delegate of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, spoke about her appreciation for the timing of Swanson’s remarks.
“I was so thankful for the energy for which he brought the message, particularly on a day when people came with a lot of anxiety and there was a lot of stress,” said Schindler.