2020 Annual Conference Theme
God's Adventurous Future
As we gather as the 234th Recorded Annual Conference, we rally around our conference theme: “God’s Adventurous Future.” Our theme has historical rootage. In 1958, a variation of the theme was the title of Harry K. Zeller’s sermon for the opening worship of Standing Committee: “The Adventurous Future.” The phrase was subsequently used to title the book edited by Paul H. Bowman to compile the papers, sermons, and addresses of the 250th anniversary of the Church of the Brethren.
As the theme implies, our future is not uneventful; it is marked by “rigorous peaks, rushing currents, and deep valleys”! Thus, there is challenge in the journey that, in all honesty, can be unsettling, even anxiety-producing. Such angst marks, in particular, our pilgrimage as the church. Frankly, we live in one of the most complex, jarring eras in modern ecclesiastical history. Numerous issues not only rumble among us, they tear at us, threatening the very fabric of our denominational being.
As we acknowledge such reality, it’s hard to be optimistic. But it's wise to be expectant—even hope-full—for God moves among us, calling us beyond our bewilderment and discord. Scripture bears testimony to God’s audacious initiative: “Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it? Yes, I will make a road in the wilderness and paths in the wastelands” (Isaiah 43:19 NET). “…Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes…Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate” (Revelation 21:3-5 MSG).
It’s God’s dependability and accuracy that charts our course. Yes, much rattles and disrupts; we have our doubts and are afraid. Yet we press on toward God’s adventurous future, drawing on the endurance of God. For “The Lord [our] God is in [our] midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over [us] with gladness; he will quiet [us] by his love; he will exult over [us] with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV).
It is my prayer that God’s divine decibel will captivate us, invading our apprehension, stirring us to trek onward—nevertheless—toward God’s new creation in Jesus. For “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, [is] what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NRSV).
Moderator, Church of the Brethren
Daily Themes and Scriptures
The daily themes that follow are intentionally generic. Though our overall conference theme “God’s Adventurous Future” is complementary to the Compelling Vision Process (CVP), it was important to conference planners that the daily, sub themes did not assume a vision before a vision is affirmed by the delegate body. Thus, the daily, sub-themes are themes that are applicable to any resulting compelling vision.
Scriptures are listed for both daily bible studies and evening worship services. As the ultimate, biblical, futuristic book, Revelation is a featured emphasis; texts from Revelation are used in daily bible studies, and evening services when there is no bible study. On bible study days, the evening sermon is based on another choice bible passage related to the daily theme.
Evening preachers include: Wednesday, July 1, Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey of Frederick, Md; Thursday, July 2, Richard Zapata of Anaheim, Calif., pastor of Santa Ana Principe de Paz Church of the Brethren; Friday, July 3, Chelsea Goss and Tyler Goss of Mechanicsville, Va., and Harrisonburg, Va., respectively; Saturday, July 4, Beth Sollenberger, executive minister for South Central Indiana District; Sunday, July 5, Patrick Starkey of Cloverdale, Va., who is chair of the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board.
The daily bible study leader is Dr. Michael Gorman. Dr. Gorman is the Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s University and Seminary, Baltimore, MD. Dr. Gorman will also be resourcing the pre-conference minister’s association event, focusing on 1 Corinthians. The Revelation passages for our Annual Conference daily bible studies have been selected in consultation with Dr. Gorman.
God’s Adventurous Future…
- A Future Grounded in Jesus
- A Future Informed by Scripture
- A Future Sharpened through Risk
- A Future Dependent on Prayer
- A Future Filled with Promise
Wednesday, July 1 – A Future Grounded in Jesus
God’s adventurous future is best known in Jesus. As the Alpha and Omega, Jesus spans the ‘time of our life’ pointing us to a future marked by hope. Though life will have pain, even persecution, we move forward with patient endurance in Christ.
Bible study - none
Evening message – Revelation 1:1-9 (NRSV)
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw…. Grace to you and peace…from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds, every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance…” (Revelation 1:1-9, NRSV)
Thursday, July 2 – A Future Informed by Scripture
God’s adventurous future is enlightened by God Word, both living and written. As God’s living Word, Jesus is trustworthy and true; as God’s written Word, scripture is trustworthy and true. Scripture ‘shows us the way’ calling us to godly obedience.
Bible study - Revelation 22:1-7 (NRSV)
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:1-7, NRSV)
Evening message – 2 Timothy 3:10-17 (NRSV)
“Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:10-17 (NRSV)
Friday, July 3, 2020 – A Future Sharpened through Risk
God’s adventurous future requires courage and daring; faithfulness in Christ is not lukewarm. Jesus calls us to be fervent in our outreach, repenting of complacency and complicity. Jesus invites us to ‘open the door’ of bolder communion with Him, to be empowered to move forward into more energetic transformational witness.
Bible Study – Revelation 3:14-22
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation: I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:15-22, NRSV)
Evening Sermon – Matthew 14:22-33 (NRSV)
“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33 NRSV)
Saturday, July 4, 2020 – A Future Dependent On Prayer
God’s adventurous future does not develop through our own resources. God’s next season requires the bounty of God received through a prayer-full relationship with God. Through prayer, we connect with the power, wealth, and wisdom of Jesus, as we commune, confess, and convey: holy, holy, holy the Lord God is Almighty.
Bible Study – Revelation 4-5 (NRSV)
After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal. Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle.
And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 4-5, NRSV)
Evening Sermon - Ephesians 3:14-20 (NRSV)
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-20)
Sunday, July 5, 2020 – A Future Filled with Promise
God’s adventurous future culminates in the fullness of New Creation. God promises, in the end, to make all things new, wiping away every tear, declaring death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. The spring of the water of life will quench every thirst.
Bible Study – none
Morning Sermon – Revelation 21:1-6 (NRSV)
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21:1-6, NRSV)