But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Starting Friday afternoon, I will gather with thousands of United Methodists from all over the Virginia Conference. This is our annual meeting to discuss current challenges facing the church, celebrate the ordination of new pastors, and grow in our faith and love of God. Holy Conferencing sits at the foundation of what it means to be part of the UMC and traces back to the time of John Wesley.
To be perfectly honest, Annual Conference has its ups and downs. There is nothing quite like the Service of Ordination that will take place on Saturday evening; ordinands will kneel before the Bishop and take the vows of serving our church will all that they have and we will sing those great and familiar hymns as we pray over these new ministers and their churches. The episcopal address, made by our Bishop, seeks to encourage the lay and clergy leaders of our conference while at the same time faithfully address the concerns and challenges of the future.
But there will come a time when the Annual Conference will descend into petty arguments, oversimplified generalizations, and frustrated ramblings. We will be asked to vote on resolutions regarding a wide-variety of issues facing the church including the possibility of changing the language regarding homosexuality in our Book of Discipline. The roller-coaster of Annual Conference will move up and down and many of us will have our faith restored in the church, only to have it completely erased after a few arguments break out.
As I reflect back on the previous Annual Conferences I have attended, and prepare for this coming weekend, I wonder if our Holy Conferencing is more about us, or more about Jesus. We need to ask ourselves why we gather in the first place: Are we here to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate one another on a productive year in ministry? Or are we here to learn more about God, nourish ourselves through worship, and find renewed energy to be Christ’s body for the world as we return to our churches?
Sometimes, things must be crucified in order for resurrection to take place. We have to be prepared to let something die and end so that we can find new life and discover new opportunities for our great church to be what God has called us to be. Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Annual Conference is a perfect opportunity to remember that all of this (the church, ministry, serving the community) is not about me but its about God. If we let our old selves die and put on Christ we will be able to faithfully participate in a weekend dedicated to the renewal of our church. However, if we continue to talk and act as if Jesus isn’t in the room with us we will fail to grow and be fruitful for the world around us.
So, as you prepare to enter a new week I challenge you to confront the areas of your life where Christ is not at the forefront of your being. How are you still holding onto the old self? How can you let a part of your life be crucified so that something new and beautiful and wonderful can be resurrected?