Tag Archive: Wrestle

Wrestling with a Sermon

Part of my sermon last week was the idea of living in gratitude for what God promises God will do. That knowing the good future that God promises should inspire us to not settle for things we see in this life that don’t line up with that good future. Knowing God’s good future means we can’t be satisfied when things around us don’t line up with that good future. I shared a number of things that messed with me.

For example I mentioned that a year ago a neighbor near the church was harassed and threatened by another neighbor because of their sexual orientation.  I also mentioned about the recent thefts that have happened in the neighborhood including cars being broken into.  Then I mentioned the stories of immigrant workers being exploited and mistreated and the homeless and hungry poor in our community, and how all these things cause me to wrestle.

These things continue to grab hold of me, because I don’t find myself having many great big answers. But here is what I am convinced of that is coming out of this wrestling:

1. To participate in God’s good future I need to be better connected with our neighbors so that there is shared context and relationships. I am being called to be closer to our neighbors (it is hard to love from a distance).

2. I need to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking. God is already at work in the lives of all the neighbors around the church. I need to remember that God, through the Holy Spirit, really is here with us guiding us into God’s good future.

Holy Spirit guide us into your good future, help us to boldly make strange friendships so that your light will shine in us through these strange friendships and your light will shine through us to these friends. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

Hope in the gut.

Hope-in-the-gutWell, I have been here for two years now in this role as Student Pastor. There is this one feeling that I haven’t been able to shake since beginning this journey. While I have had times of nervousness and anxiousness as I have stepped into doing things that were new (like when I preached my first sermon at St. Paul), but those feelings seem to shift, come, and go.  The one feeling that continues to stir in my gut is a sense of hope. It sometimes weighs heavy in my gut and leaves me restless. It is this sense of being sure that there is something more, something greater just ahead. It is a sense that stirs up perseverance. A sense that God has promised something, not just something in general, but something for us. For two years I have grown to know the people of St. Paul and I have had this sense of hope for what God is about to do here. I have seen evidence of God’s work here. Today this sense of hope has me feeling like we are approaching the crest of the hill. We are about to see over the rim and catch a glimpse of what God is about to do.  I believe God is wanting to give birth to something within the context of St. Paul. There is much to be done as we move forward into God’s future, but I am excited about where God is leading.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty  conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly  to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Footnotes and Crumbs

Preaching can sometimes be the art of learning what not to say.  It seems as I begin the process of preparing a sermon there is a feeling of “what am I going to say”, then after being knee deep in the studying there is the feeling of “I don’t have time to say all this!” It is pretty exciting to catch a glimpse of the depth of God’s word.

RomeWell, this past Sunday I was preaching on God being with us. One of the crumbs that got left out of the sermon (Which was gleaned out during the sermon) was about Jesus being born into a world under kingdom of Rome. Jesus lived in a kingdom where the people were taxed and forced to do the will of the king of Rome. If you as an individual stuck your neck out too much opposing the will of the kingdom you would find yourself crucified. If you as a people group refused to bow to the will of the Roman kingdom then you had to deal with the strongest military force on the face of the earth at the time. It was a world of captivity for God’s people and this is the world Jesus was born into to be with us. Jesus comes bringing about a different kind of Kingdom. God comes to be with us in love to transform us from the inside out, not to oppressively force us to do His will. If God forced us to do His will – we would simply be living under another form of captivity. When we pray for God’s will to be done and for God’s kingdom to come – we are praying for freedom. Freedom to be who we were created to be. Freedom from all that holds us captive.

It is funny preaching – during the sermon I wanted to stop over and over again and share all these footnotes of things I had discovered during the process of writing and studying. That maybe part of what this blog is for us talking about and sharing some of the crumbs.

(Part 1) Well, again I have found myself with a wrestling spirit. I think I see hints of the vision that God has for me and St. Paul UMC, maybe its even more than hints. So I confess that I am not feeling very patient today. I want to run, but I fear that if I start sprinting I will find myself alone. God show me your pace to move.

The imagery that was apart of my sermon a couple of weeks ago was about sheep and shepherd.  So here I am wrestling with this calling to be a shepherd, but realizing I need to first be a sheep and just follow our Great Shepherd at whatever pace Jesus wants to lead.

(Part 2) This past Sunday I had the wonderful opportunity to preach at Wesley Chapel UMC south of Benson, NC. It is a great country church that was surrounded by soy bean and tobacco farms. I had so much fun and they were wonderful people. However, something felt a little off. It had nothing to do with the wonderful people at Wesley Chapel. I think it has to do with St. Paul UMC. It felt like confirmation of God has me just where I am supposed to be.  Thank you God for placing me here at St. Paul UMC. May your will be done in me as it is in heaven.