Now What Do We Do?

At Sydenstricker UMC, we are at the climax of a year-long discernment process, seeking to identify what it is that God is calling us to do and to be. The process, called Next Level Innovations, culminated in a special weekend recently. An outside team of experts from the District came in to help facilitate conversations about what’s special about SUMC, what needs to change, and where we can make a difference. The outcome of that weekend was a report with a set of recommendations that we’re now considering, and will vote on whether to accept later this month.

As the report was presented, we had a special unified service, at which our NLI mentor, Rev Brian Brown, preached on the ripples we make in life. We then had the NLI director, Rev Dr Sarah Calvert, present the recommendations to the church.

The following weekend, Pastor Don was away on conference business, and I had the preaching duty. I spoke on the question of Now What Do We Do? Once we’ve heard from God, what is our response going to be? Give a listen and let me know what you think.

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The Personality of Jesus

Recently, I had the opportunity to fill in for the pastor at Sydenstricker UMC, and preached on the personality of Jesus.  Have you ever considered that Jesus would have had a personality, just like you or I did? And what kind of personality would it have been? I try to show aspects of Jesus being focused and determined, yet playful, and capable of building deep, authentically human relationships with the men who surrounded him for three years. Give it a listen and let me know what you think!

Well That Was Different…Gulp!

I had a slightly different set of experiences Saturday night. Pastor Don had invited me to preach in his place at the Saturday night service, since he was going to be at a conference in Charlottesville that day and not getting back in time. Sure, I can do that. It was supposed to be bowling night, but hey, I can get there late. Then our teammate Ken announced he would be travelling this weekend and could we pre-bowl. God was starting to move things out of the way for this night. Little did I know why.

Whenever in the past I’ve been asked to take part of a weekend, I’ve always picked my own scripture and theme: I’ve never tried to work off the same as the pastor has for the rest of the services on a weekend. But this time, I tried doing just that, because it was the concluding sermon on a series he’d been doing on “renewal.” It didn’t feel right to have had the Saturday night service attendees get four out of the five topics covered, and then just leave them hanging on the last night.

So I checked out the scripture, Matthew 18–the whole chapter–and was floored. It’s just so rich, so full of things to preach on–hey, Don, where were you going with this? He explained that he was preaching on the Kingdom of God and how it’s already present with us…didn’t really say much more. So I went off and came up with a sermon to try to follow that headline lead. I was working on my usual path, of coming up with rough notes and lines to take that would be the basis for my text, when I kept getting a nudge. “Just go with an outline. Don’t write it all out.” Gulp. OK, I’ll try.

Saturday came and by midafternoon the promised “wintry mix” was materializing. Sleet, snow, rain, we had it all…I kept waiting for the message from the school district that they were closing campuses for the night: since the church follows the school’s lead, we would then be cancelling services. But no message came, and so off I went.

You can imagine my surprise to see Pastor Don was there when I walked in! The weather had cancelled his conference, he explained. But he came out to hear me preach–wouldn’t hear of taking it back. Gulp, take two. I’ve had the luxury of preaching without a professional present for years…and one whose topic I was trying to work off of, who has the “textbook answer” already ready to go for tomorrow morning! Gulp, again! To add to the nerves, my Emmaus brother Charley and his wife–one of Mary’s Emmaus sisters, Kathy–decided to come check me out. Gulp, once more!

In the end, I did pretty decently. Not the best I’ve ever done, but also not the weakest. The technique of just using major outline headings worked pretty well: I can’t think of something I missed saying as a result.

But all the more, Charley and Kathy were very complimentary, and I had someone else ask the regular question on her way out the door (“Are you going into ministry?” To which for the first time I equivocated: “It’s not an immediate plan…”). But the report card from Pastor Don was all smiles. “You’re a preacher,” he said. “No doubt in my mind.”

Gulp.

“At The Heart of it All”

Sunday, I had the second set of chances to preach recently. This time, I was filling in for our pastor who was at annual conference, and I spoke on the heart–how absolutely essential it is for the Christian, and how we can protect out hearts. Take a listen, and then let me know what you think!

My last (known) upcoming preaching gig is on July 9 at Silverbrook UMC…come and listen!

“Living Water”

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of bringing the message in our church’s Saturday night service. I talked about the Samaritan woman at the well, and the lessons that come from it for us as Christians on our walk. If you have a few minutes, give a listen, and let me know what you think!

This weekend I’m covering all three services–I’ll be preaching on how the heart is at the core of Christianity. If you’re in the neighborhood, come by!