God coming to us in Jesus is surely the greatest gift. And as we all know, Jesus' ministry included teaching, preaching, and healing, but he also performed miracles. And perhaps his greatest miracle was that he chose to work through us.
Think about it. We are the body of Christ here and now. Yes, we are empowered and enlivened by the Spirit of God, but God has chosen to work through limited, myopic, sinful, self-interested people--us. He chooses to be present in the world through people. We are his witnesses. We may be the only Bible many people see. This isn't the only way God is present, of course, but it does help explain why the church behaves as it often does.
Sometimes we, the body of believers, are the faithful, and sometimes some of us are only halfhearted and lukewarm Christians. So there are things about the church that I truly love and things that I can't stomach. The church like its people is a mixture of good and bad, pride and humility, condemnation and forgiveness. It's made up of people trying to do the right thing; and people who believe that unless you do it their way, you can't possibly be right.
As we enter into Annual Conference season, let's remember that we don't owe our allegiance to the book of Disciple. And while we are accountable to each other, we are also accountable before God. When we stand at the Pearly Gates, God won't ask us, "Did you uphold the Disciple?" But he might ask us, "Are you at peace and live in charity with your neighbor?" He won't ask you if when you spoke at Annual Conference, did people applaud? But he might ask, "Where are the marks of your discipleship?"
It's too easy for me to get caught up in the politics of church life, so I'm also reminding us all that Annual Conference is meant to be Holy Conversation. I hope your Conference helps facilitate conversation and encourages dialogue. I hope that your Annual Conference is a faithful witness to our Risen Lord.