“Jesus came to make things right by making them new,” the Reverend Denise Anderson, Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), told some 350 leaders of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presbyteries and synods gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, for the annual Polity Conference and fall meetings.
“When it comes to our denomination, I don’t think Jesus wants to return us to our former glory,” said Anderson, who preached at a worship service that opened the gathering. “We are always being reformed—not just in the time of John Calvin, but in our time. We are being made into what God wants us to be.”
Taking as her texts Isaiah 40:21–31 and Mark 1:29–39, Anderson talked about how human desires for healing and restoration often fall short of what God intends.
She began her sermon by singing: “In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.” The congregation quickly joined in.
“Give me Jesus—it’s the prayer of all believers,” Anderson said. “We all want Jesus. But why do we want Jesus?”
After Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law in Mark 1, throngs of people began seeking him out, wanting healing and deliverance from demons. “But Jesus was offering more,” Anderson said.
“I believe we have a tendency to want less of Jesus than Jesus has to offer. We all want to be healed, to be restored, to go back to when churches all over were packed to the gills. We want things to go back to the way they were,” Anderson said.
“We want to be able to do all the things we used to do. We’re impatient with discernment processes and new initiatives. Why can’t things just go back to the way they were, when we were younger and more agile?”
But the message of Jesus is about being transformed, Anderson said.
Quoting from Isaiah 40, she concluded, “We can wait on God, knowing that God intends to do a new thing in us and through us. When God lifts us up, we will not only be whole, we will be better.”
The worship service featured music accented by guitars and percussion instruments, and ended with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Over the next three days, mid-council leaders will worship, learn, and share ideas about important issues in the life of the denomination. The Oct. 28–31 gathering includes the Polity Conference, preceded by three other mid-council leader events meeting concurrently: the Moderators’ Conference, the Association of Mid Council Leaders annual meeting, and the Association of Stated Clerks annual meeting. Training for new stated clerks took place Oct. 26–27.
This is the second year these events have taken place concurrently in the same location. Planners say the streamlined schedule enables better stewardship of time and money. It also strengthens church leadership by providing opportunities for conversation among those in various mid council roles.
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