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Today in the Mission Yearbook

The PC(USA)’s first-ever Matthew 25 Summit opens with powerful and prophetic preaching

 

The Rev. Hodari Williams, team leader of the host New Life Presbyterian Church, urges everyone to tug off cloaks of invisibility

February 28, 2024

The Rev. Hodari Williams got the Matthew 25 Summit started with stellar preaching. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Growing up in the 1980s, the Rev. Hodari Williams was a fan of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger comic books — especially Cloak, whose superpower was becoming invisible when he wore his robe.

One year the young Williams, who grew up to lead New Life Presbyterian Church in South Fulton, Georgia, the host church for the Matthew 25 Summit, received a maroon bathrobe for Christmas. “Who gives a kid a robe for Christmas?” he asked. Still, Williams believed his robe made him invisible, just like his superhero.

In first grade, “I learned I was inherently equipped with an invisible cloak, thrust upon me by society in America,” Williams said during opening worship of the first-ever in-person Matthew 25 gathering. Or, as Ralph Ellison says in “Invisible Man”: “I am an invisible man … simply because people refuse to see me.”

In Matthew’s Judgment of the Nations found in Matthew 25:31–46, both sheep and goats “fall short of recognizing divinity of those concealed by societal norms,” according to Williams. But Jesus, “a North African Palestinian Jew, skillfully confronts the disciples’ blindness. He connects the whole human experience by positioning himself among the invisible. It serves as an indictment, urging disciples to strip away the forced cloaks of invisibility imposed by society.”

New Life Presbyterian Church’s electronic sign welcomed the 350 or so people attending the Matthew 25 Summit. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“If you don’t see [the effects of invisibility], I compel you to look deeper,” Williams said. “If I don’t see you, I am not compelled to value you.”

“We must ask ourselves: Who is benefiting from the invisibility?” Williams said. Or, as Dr. John Henrik Clarke puts it: “If we would lose our eyesight, we’d increase our insight.”

If we do that, “we become aware of those around us,” Williams said, inviting the packed sanctuary to offer the South African greeting, “Sawubona,” or “I see you.”

That means “I see the whole you — your experiences, your passions, your pain, your strengths and weaknesses, and your future,” Williams said. “You are valuable to me.”

“I see your cloak, and I dare you to take your cloak off so you may be seen in who you are, your wholeness,” Williams said. In South Africa, the response is “Yebo Sawubona,” or “I see you, too.”

“May we see each other more clearly,” Williams said to loud and sustained applause.

Dr. Tony McNeill rehearses singers before the start of the Matthew 25 Summit at New Life Presbyterian Church in South Fulton, Georgia. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Before worship, attendees were welcomed by an array of happy Presbyterians. The Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, held up three “C” words as Matthew 25 Summit goals: gaining clarity about what Matthew 25 is all about, thinking about the context of Matthew 25 as it’s lived out, and hoping that “we will all make connections.”

The Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, Co-Moderator of the 225th General Assembly (2022), offered greetings from herself and fellow Co-Moderator the Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace “on behalf of the faithful and mindful” commissioners and advisory delegates from the PC(USA)’s most recent Assembly.

“I’m so excited about what God is doing in and through this movement,” Starling-Louis said. “I thank those who have laid the groundwork, and I thank you for embodying what God is doing right here and now.”

A number of singers joined musician Dr. Tony McNeill to provide the 350 or so people gathered at the host church and the many worshiping online with stellar music throughout the service. The Rev. Shanea Leonard, director of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, and Dr. Corey Schlosser-Hall, deputy executive for Vision, Innovation and Rebuilding in the PMA, helped to build excitement for the sold-out event by serving as emcees. “We are ready to ride and ready to fly,” Schlosser-Hall said following Williams’ benediction, which included these words offering thanks to the Almighty, “the One who sees us, knows us, counts the very hairs on our head, the One who knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb.”

“Let us go from this place in insight, intentionally seeing others and looking beyond the cloaks of invisibility placed upon them. May we see the light of divinity in each other.”

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: PC(USA)’s first-ever Matthew 25 Summit

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Heath Carter, Senior Editor, Presbyterian Historical Society, Office of the General Assembly 
Jackie Carter, Project Manager, Media & Publishing, Communications Ministry, Presbyterian Mission Agency 

Let us pray

God of all, we praise you for the ways you use our simple gifts for the good of the kingdom. Thank you for providing bridges between all people with your love. Give us strength and vision to live every day as children who love and serve you. Amen.