“Lesson Learned at AC 2017” (June 25, 2017)

(Exodus 19:2-8a, Ps. 100, Romans 5:1-8, Matt. 9:35-10:4)

      I have recently returned from the New England Annual Conference, which took place in Manchester, NH.  Over 1000 United Methodist clergy and laity gathered from the New England states to celebrate ministry, to discern, discuss and vote on issues while praying for God’s leading.  Gathering as a community of faith is not new, of course.  Our scripture readings this morning inform us that this has been going on for thousands of years.

     Our Exodus passage reminds us of God’s call on Moses to lead his people from bondage in Egypt.  After their exodus and a significant period of time in the wilderness when God made provision for them, he instructs Moses to gather the people.  Note v. 7 when Moses summons the people to gather together while reminding them of God’s covenant with them.  This is what happens at our annual conference; we gather together to be reminded of God’s call on our lives.

     Psalm 100 also speaks of those gathering to celebrate God’s presence and faithfulness.  It is thought the first two verses invite people to come forward to the gates of the temple, while those gathering sing these words of celebration.  This is also reflective of our annual gathering as a conference.  We were invited, we gathered together, and we praised God.

      In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we sense that the church had to deal with difficult issues. The church at Rome had to deal with conflict and difficulties due to the influence of their surrounding culture along with false teachings and persecution.  We too as the New England conference of the United Methodist church recognize the difficulties we are facing as a people doing our best to be faithful to God’s call on our lives.  There are disagreements among us, there are outside influences that divide us, and there are those who persecute our work. And yet as Paul includes in his letter to the church in Rome, we are called to persevere.

     An important part of annual conference each year involves those answering a call to ministry. On the last evening of our gathering, people step forward to be ordained into ministry.  This is what we find happening in our passage from Matthew this morning. Jesus serves as a model by offering ministry to people, and invites others to follow.

    My lesson from annual conference 2017?  I was reminded again that the work of the church is a shared ministry.   All of us….you, me, are invited to be part of the Kingdom building Jesus calls us to.  Pastors, laity, Sunday school teachers, moms, dads, husbands, wives, children, grandparents, musicians, cooks, cleaners, organizers, those who pray….ALL OF US are part of the annual conference, ALL OF US are part of this church, and ALL OF US are needed in order to make the ministries of our beloved church come alive. 

      I am thankful to be part of the United Methodist Church, and I am deeply thankful for your support and your willingness to be part of Kingdom building as we partner together. Amen!