Bishop King preaches opening message of love, unity, fruitfulness


Photo by Matt Brodie, SCUMC

Bishop James R. King, Jr., who will retire Sept. 1 after serving 16 years as an episcopal leader – eight in South Georgia and eight in Kentucky – preached the opening worship service of the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference and greeted those gathered in Lake Junaluska, N.C. with his trademark, “Hello, beautiful people!”

His sermon, “Focus on love,” emphasized unity and fruitfulness.

Speaking to a Church that has been mired in rumors of schism for several years, Bishop King spoke of the confidence Christians have in Christ.

“Our hope for unity in the church and in the world is based on our ability to focus our energy on what we have in common and that is Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is love, so beautiful people, let’s focus on love.”

Reading John 15:1, which says, “I am the vine, my father is the vinegrower,” Bishop King said that Christians must stay connected to Jesus in order to bear fruit and accomplish the mission of the Church.

“Our job is to grow a world that looks like Jesus Christ,” he said. “The way we grow a world that looks like Jesus Christ is by staying connected to Jesus.”

He spoke of New Testament disciples Peter, Mary, and Paul and recounted their stories of connectedness with Christ.

“Beautiful people – get connected. If you are connected, stay connected to Jesus!”

Connecting to Christ, Bishop King said, helps believers behave more like Christ-followers who can and will transform the world. 

“If Christians would act like disciples of Jesus Christ the world would be different and we would see the difference,” he said. “Disciples show it; that’s how
we know it.”

To close his sermon, Bishop King used imagery of majestic redwood trees to illustrate the unity and connection for which The United Methodist Church should strive.

“As tall as they are, their roots aren’t deep but they are intertwined, interconnected, and they work with each other, they’re in unity,” he said. “They give help to each other, and because of that, winds find it very difficult to tumble them down.”

Christians are called to love one another and, like the redwoods, work together in unity, he said. If they do, hope for unity will be fulfilled and the world will be transformed.

“So, beautiful people, focus on Jesus, focus on love. Focus on love.”