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Riding the Rollercoaster

When my son turned 15 we took him and a friend to Six Flags – Fiesta Texas in San Antonio in celebration.  He couldn’t wait to try what was then the world’s largest wooden rollercoaster.  Staring at this monster (called The Rattler), the friend decided he didn’t want to go on it after all.  (His friend is now in the Marine Corps!)  It was just too scary.  Well, trying to be a good Dad, I got in line to ride with Nathan. My bravery reached its zenith as we slowly rode to the top of the first monster drop.  It was exhilarating!  We towered over the visible world.  Then we dropped!  To paraphrase Bob Weathers, I rededicated my life to Jesus three times in the 30 seconds it took us to hit the bottom and whip around the first of many hairpin turns.  (My son reports that I kept saying, “Jesus save me!”) With the start of General Conference, I was reminded of riding The Rattler.  We opened with an inspiring, thrilling, God-moving, Spirit-filled worship.  The music was awesome; the preaching great; communion a joy.  It was and is the church at her best, praising God and leaning forward in faithful attentiveness and anticipation. After worship we broke for lunch and then came back for the first business session, the setting of General Conference rules and procedures.  Two and one half (yes, 2 ½) dis-spiriting hours later, we adjourned without completing our business.  From the mountain peak we had plunged into the messy bogs of legislative wrangling. We awoke the next morning to receive the Episcopal Address given by Bishop Pete Weaver of the New England Episcopal Area.  We shot back up to the heights!    Entitled The Resurrection Revolution we were brought back to Easter morning. Said Bishop Weaver:  “Before any of us were delegates, we were disciples.  Before any of us were bishops, we were believers.  Before any of us were members in caucuses, we were members in Christ Jesus and therefore, members of one another.  Before any of us had a resolution in our hands to vote on, we had a resolution in our hearts to devote ourselves to the living Christ.” That afternoon we whipsawed back into debate over the rules.  And so it goes.  General Conference is a rollercoaster ride.  Yet in it all is the presence of God; sometimes encouraging, sometimes brooding, sometimes cheering.  Bishop Weaver recalled the first episcopal address ever given to a Methodist General Conference in America two hundred years ago by Bishop McKendree.  When challenged, Bishop McKendree suggested that we handle the new things brought before us with this seminal piece of advice:  “Do everything as in the immediate presence of God.” This is great advice for Christians of any place and every time.  We are always in the immediate presence of God! Today the Council of Bishops held its own worship service passing the gavel as president from Bishop Larry Goodpaster to Bishop Rosemarie Wenner.  As we finished communion we sang “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”  As the words washed over me, I recalled getting off The Rattler.  It was good to stand on solid ground.  As the ride continues, may we as a church cling to rock. Do everything as in the presence of God