Annual Conference 2009 is now over. It is history. But I believe that it will continue to inform our common life and witness for some time to come.
We have some important challenges ahead of us. Those challenges create unprecedented opportunities for us to be the church that God yearns for and that the world needs. I am excited about both the challenges and the opportunities.
Remember we are the people who live out our faith in part by observing “Three Simple Rules.” The first of these rules is “do no harm.” The United Methodist perspective on gambling could not be more relevant to the revenue issues that we are facing here in Illinois.
I was pleased last week that the Illinois General Assembly took up the important business of a capital construction bill that would tend to much needed infrastructure work and provide jobs.
But I was profoundly disappointed that the funding package for the program includes the dangerous expansion of gambling in Illinois. I am persuaded that such an expansion will do great injury and harm.
Remember, we are a people who live out their faith by observing "Three Simple Rules." The first of these rules is "do no harm."
In a world filled with division and strife, where what we are not is the most important label we wear, what gift could the followers of Jesus be to the world by embodying what it means to dwell together in unity? Practicing true community may be the primary way that we can show the world the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
We do not have to ignore the things that distinguish us. But we are called to not allow them to distract us from the task of modeling the power of true oneness and community before the world. Our differences of whatever kind enrich us, they do not diminish us. Our differences can be pathways to conversation and relationship not roadblocks to community. Maya Angelou is a distinguished poet. She happens to be an American but she belongs to the world. She says about our human experience “we are more alike than unalike.”
We are rife with opportunities that offer equipping for the ministry of evangelization and making disciples of Jesus Christ. We have a growing menu of offerings that takes the task seriously, honors different learning styles, and is not one size fits all.
The key is that any person or congregation that is a part of IGRC that earnestly seeks to grow forward the capacity to be an authentic witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has serious, credible options to grow in this way available.
Your faithfulness and generosity help to strengthen our common work as United Methodists here in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, throughout the U.S. and globally. Your performance was made possible because of your clarity of vision, mission focus, sense of connection and regular giving across the years.
We are not only connected through our giving. We are connected through appointment making. Every congregation needs and deserves effective pastoral leadership that is focused on the mission, “equipping the saints” for that mission and is partnered with the laity to accomplish the mission. Our mission as United Methodists is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Our days of waiting in Advent darkness are almost over. These days of waiting and watching are a blessing to the church embedded in the church’s calendar. We Christians live by a different rhythm, a different clock and a different calendar. We start in the darkness. We wait in hope for light.
In John’s gospel there is no nativity narrative. But John does not fail to engage the truth and power of incarnation. In describing the Incarnate One – Jesus the Christ – he uses terms like Life and Light. The Incarnate One is “the true light that enlightens everyone.” John also notes “the light shines in darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
In joining you it is very clear to me that the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church is richly gifted in many ways. Of special note for me are the profound ways in which you are wonderfully aligned around the mission of the church. I have observed that alignment in depth of spirituality, staffing and articulation of the mission.