Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Notes On The Morning After

Romans 8: 12-17

Notes On The Morning After a Very Intense Three Days, Disguised As A Sermon, With A Conveniently Simpatico Scripture.

I got home from Annual conference last night (Saturday) about 10:30, after dropping our lay representative off at her home. We had been at the University of Scranton since Thursday morning, meeting with over 400 other Methodist clergy and laypeople in our annual meeting.

While Annual Conference is partly a business meeting, with decisions to be made about money and politics and all that, it is also my church, my congregation, and to be able to see friends and to honor retirees, memorialized those who have passed, and bring new members in with ordination is very important.

There were a lot of firsts and lasts. This was the last Wyoming Annual conference meeting. The five that were ordained on Saturday evening at Elm Park UMC in Scranton were the last ordination class of the conference. Next year, those who will be ordained will receive it in the name of the Susquehanna Conference, or whatever New York comes up with as a name.

This was also the first year after a General Conference meeting, so there were decisions that had to be made about changes to the general church’s constitution.

I do, however, what to tell you about a new set of focuses (foci?) that our denominational wide body, the General Conference, has laid before the whole church. There are four, and you’ll be hearing about them again, with video and everything!

We are charged by the church to focus our energy in four areas: developing new leaders, creating new places for new people, eliminating poverty, and improving world health. The mission of the United Methodist church is to make Disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and these are the ways that we have been challenged to respond.

When we develop leaders, we are of course meaning identifying new and fresh people who can be trained to lead the church as ministers, missionaries and empowered laypeople. The average age of United Methodist church is 58 years old, and constantly skewing older, and it makes sense that it would also be true of those who are leading them. We need to be better at identifying those who may be hearing a call to serve the people, to lead them in service to Christ.

In identifying those people, we need to put them in places where they can announce the presence of the Lord, share the love of Christ with new people.

The United Methodist church is the heir of a stream of traditions that have all emphasized strongly the importance of working for the benefit of the whole world. The call for our age, the 21st century, is to eliminate poverty and to improve health globally. It is often noticed that the world already has enough food to feed itself, if the food is distributed equitably. One of the things we are called to address is to make sure that everyone, to the best of our ability, is “food secure” and has safe and solid housing.

The same is true for global health; just as polio is no longer a threat in the United States because of a vaccine, so, too, many other diseases can be eliminated worldwide by simply paying attention, identifying a need, and applying the right talent and resources. Malaria can be controlled in many areas of the world simply by having people sleep under $10 mosquito nets. Things can actually change, it is within our reach!

The flavor of the church is changing. The United Methodist church is seeking to respond to 21st Century problems, just as our forebears sought to respond to poverty in their time, to eradicating disease, to changing society so that it may more closely resemble the kingdom of God. To as Paul says, not live according to the flesh, where “we take care of our own” and the rest of the world is not a concern, but to live by the Spirit, where we know that for each Christian, the kingdom of God knows no boundaries. To understand, in Wesley’s words, that “The world is my parish”. We are the inheritors of an eternal message, the love and saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection. We are called to applying to our very real and different time. We are still called to live by the spirit, and the world is no longer what it was. It is constantly changing. Living by the spirit of Christ can’t be done the way it used to be, our ways of living as heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ have to constantly adapt as well.

To borrow the old Army slogan and flip it a bit, faith is Christ is not just a life, it’s an adventure. I’m inspired by what I’ve learned and seen, I hope I can inspire you too! Let’s get to it!

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