Long ago the Lord made a road through the sea, a path through the swirling waters. He led a mighty army to destruction, an army of chariots and horses. Down they fell, never to rise, snuffed out like the flame of a lamp! But the Lord says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there. Even the wild animals will honor me; jackals and ostriches will praise me when I make rivers flow in the desert to give water to my chosen people. They are the people I made for myself, and they will sing my praises!” – Isaiah 43:16-21 Good News Translation (GNT)
Annual Conference will be a new experience for me this year. After 18 years, this will be the first year I not am attending as pastor of a local church. This new adventure as a member of the Connectional Ministries Team came about quite unexpectedly. Though I loved my ministry in the local church, I celebrate this new thing God is doing. Sure it’s a little bit scary, but I’m ready for the challenge.
In the church we are always walking a tricky path between honoring our history and living fully in the present with an eye to the future. Annual Conference is one of those times when all three come into play. We have the service of passage, recognition of retirees, ordination and setting of appointments.
Likely, we will leave this Annual Conference having celebrated the good work of A Future With Hope, awakened to the possibilities of Miracles Everywhere. We will recognize the progress we have made in raising up vital congregations and accept the challenge to engage in the work of the Spirit to transform our world.
This year we are exceedingly grateful to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the historic merger that created the United Methodist Church. At the same time, we acknowledge that our denomination is still in the midst of ongoing change. So how will we navigate these waters?
In times like this, the book of Isaiah invites us to trust God. It weaves together Israel’s past, present and future. It points to the powerful works of God and both the stubbornness and faithfulness of the people. Isaiah points to the urgency of not holding on to what has been – because God is doing a new thing. But don’t hold on to that too tight, because today’s new thing will be history tomorrow. We are not to forget the past, because that helps shape us, but holding on gets us stuck.
At 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 22, 2018, the gavel will go down and the GNJ Annual Conference 2018 will be part of the history books. My challenge to you is how will we take with us the wisdom from the past, trust in God for our future and have the conviction to live fully this present moment. I invite you to join me (like Isaiah) to step out on to the road God has prepared for us and sing God’s praises.