Lift Me up and they will come


On Sunday 10th April at 6.30pm (a communion service), I take part (as a local preacher in the methodist church) for the very first time. The expected numbers are 5-20.

Already some of those in our family of Christ are praying for me and this gathering. Already I have borrowed something another gave to us when she came to speak: I pray for those who will attend this service (and in so doing am being changed).

Already a (humbling) number of my own family have asked if I would mind them coming along – all concerned that it would add to “the pressure” on me of seeing faces I knew. How wonderful a concern is that – to be loved that much! My answer has been the same each time: “Thank you, it would be an honour!”  I have also asked others myself – that it would be an honour if they were also there that evening.

I never thought it would be this much fun!

The lectionary offers passages and verses should I wish to use them. And those training me to be a local preacher (along with many others who care), have offered an abundance of suggestions and advice. Because apparently it is a big deal to be standing up and preaching. Such a big deal that I was asked why my first involvement as a preacher was “to preach” (rather than do the more usual route of a reading or some prayers). My only answer is: “He asked, through another, and I said yes.”

Already I have already written the sermon. God Soft Hands Jesus did one of His data-downloads last month. That instant “here you go” communication that He can do so easily. 15 minutes of sermon complete with verses (not lectionary). All I had to do was to type it up. And I did.

(and submitted it as an assignment for the local-preacher-training-course of eight long modules! feedback was positive: it ticked the boxes and passed as a witness style sermon)

The order of service?

I am blessed with a mentor/minister who both challenges and supports God in me and him. And agreed that I can switch the sacrament of communion to come before “the talky bit”. And who questioned why I added just a prayer and blessing after my sermon (when the methodist way is to slot in another hymn). When I said that, for me, “another hymn” merely washed away the words of the sermon – he okayed my preference. And then he okayed my hymn choice: two hymns that were my father’s favourites, and one of my own, and then one that the minister loves. Not only that, but he also agreed (after a little of my own persuasion with the organist / pianist) that the hymns will be pre-recorded versions complete with organ, band and a full-throated choir and congregation through the church sound system to the few of us gathered together.

The only sticking point?

Making it all happen within the expected 60 minutes. Because the “talky bit” gets trimmed and pruned by the minute to make that 60 minutes happen. Any longer and complaints are expected. Any longer and it will be disrespectful. It will steal the time of those attending. And that is not loving. That is wrong. And I get that.  But …

I picture 5-20 of us in a church building designed to hold 200 people … as He and I ponder that experience and wisdom coming from different people – all of whom are trained and experienced in giving sermons – in putting together services – in feeding their flocks (in their buildings built for two hundred sheep).

But …

He keeps feeding me new sermons, new passages, new verses, and then full circle back to the lectionary passages! He is an abundant God! So abundant that I have given up any idea what His/my “sermon” will actually be – nor a clue how long it will take. All I hear are His words: “Lift Me up and they will come … “

And all I see is empty seats and shepherds who pray for them to be filled.  And who then tell me that the talky bit/over-running is a no-no – that it will frighten the sheep away – that they all tried it once – and never again (although each has hopes, oddly enough).

(Where does that concept come from … from where is that wisdom found? Am I – just another sheep – any more worthy because I am training to be a local preacher? Do I hear the word of God any more clearly than those who love Him – who have loved him more deeply that I have for many years? Are we not ALL disciples? Have we not all said: “I am yours, dear Father!” Are we not ALL curious, on a journey, hungry for nourishment? And if so … why so many empty seats … why such concern that “they” will complain, that “they” will not like “it”? Why … ?)

And just why does the label a “witness style sermon” come with “development feedback” to explain the bible more?

How do I – in this “talky bit” – do anything more than obstruct the Living Word in each of us if I “explain the bible” using all the long words I am being asked to think: exegesis … theopneustos … theo-logo … apologetics .. testing … calling … intercession … Or do I absorb all those words – and then dumb-down the bible – the Living Word – the Word of God – make it accessible – easy to get – all in 12 minutes!

Because how does anyone explain the bible better than the one who IS the Living Word? How does anyone “explain the bible” better than Him? And how does anyone find that desire to commune with our Father as a way of living, a daily thing, as a love affair, as breathing itself … unless that Love is shared together, feeding each there in their own hunger?

So He has given me at least five sermons and a number of different passages. So now I have stopped writing. And now … ?

I am just loving the conversations. Like this one at silly o’clock in bed this morning …

“Have you ever wondered if I am “a grandparent” as well as a Father, as well as Son, as well as the Holy Spirit? Have you ever considered that “no one comes to the Father but through me” might mean “it gets even better”? Have you ever wondered if this Trinity is just another “label”? Because if I Am Grandparent – now that you “get it” as one yourself … imagine the possibilities … imagine the fun! Just imagine if Alfie and Tommy and Xander are there that evening! Think of what fun we can all have together! ”

Imagine a sermon based around that!  Imagine the inclusion and involvement of all those present! Imagine the fireside fellowship!  Imagine the Love of the Living Word! Might that be 12 minutes – or even 15 – maybe 25 – or maybe more (but always “God O’Clock” – always His time – always the Living Word)! And is that a “witness style sermon” – would that be a “rookie” sermon – is that a “more development needed please” sermon?

And should I bring more exegesis and theopneustos? Should I bring more theology and comparative contextual theologies? And is this why I should worry about “them” not trusting me, “them” not understanding the bible like I do, “them” not wanting this relationship with God like what I have? In fact – should I be thinking about “them” and not thinking about “us” at all …

(and might that be with 200 seats, why only 5-20 will be needed?)

“Only that few, Paul? I can think of around a dozen with skype …. of another 400+ who read these words … of friends … of extended family … who will be together in Spirit. Think of that … all of “us” together … how much fun will that be?

Just feed My lambs, care for My sheep, feed My sheep … and let Me do the worrying! I am Global Eternal Infinite God whom some call Love and some call God (and others “God Soft Hands Jesus”!) and still others… who have not yet found their own name for Me!

Lift Me up, Paul – lift Me up – and they will come!”

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28 thoughts on “Lift Me up and they will come

  1. Yes, yes, yes! 🙂 Amen!

    When you focus on Him in those moments, and look with love on whoever is there… You will just lift Him up in joy, and “they” will find the nourishment in the words! Celebrate Him with them, and all will go “right”! 🙂 You always get it right, Paul. It’s not “Him” vs. “them” for your attention. It’s (just as you point out), the “family together” in those moments! Hug ’em all!

    • LM – thank you! When this began to become real, it seemed daunting. As the service comes closer it seems more and more like a wonderful and loving family get together. And makes me ponder how to retain that freshness into the future. 🙂

      Thank you for all your support ((hugs))

  2. Oh, good luck on your talky bits. I believe you’ll trim and add the right parts under his direction and if it goes 67 minutes the Holy Spirit wasn’t finished speaking with 60. Blessings for this special day, Paul.

    • Mark, what wonderful – and practical – advice! The closer it gets the less worries there seem to be – just so much more love and freedom!

  3. I am so excited for you!! Wow-12 minutes would be a challenge for our neck of the woods! I completely identified with all your thoughts here. Our pastor is away tomorrow and I will be doing the message- this will only be my 3rd time switching “hats” 🙂 I am extremely nervous, but willing to be His…praying for your special service- that He would lead and guide you, and that you would feel His presence in a mighty way!

    • Julie – all the very best with your service today. Nervous is good! Don has a wonderful way of putting these things: “look around (for where you are needed), show up (as you are called), and then get out of His way!” Works for me!! 🙂

      And a request: your song “I Wait” (on Soundcloud), I would so love to play quietly whilst communion is being taken. It is beautiful! Would you mind me doing that, and how do I but the track for downloading here? Then I can play it to our minister and let your voice move him as well! Thank you ((hugs))

      • Paul, I would be honored for you to play it! In soundcloud, you are able to download it to iTunes if you have an iTunes account. I can email it to you or post it here if you would like. Just let me know 🙂 And thanks for sharing Don’s advice…I got out of His way and just let Him use me 🙂 it was a great day in the Lord!! Woohoo!! It is truly a joy to serve Him 😊

        • Hiya Julie – thank you! Glad it went well!!

          Got your email and will email back: I cannot see an option in Soundcloud to do more with iTunes than download the mobile app! 🙂

            • Julie – thank you – it is in on loop here! I love it!! And Phil, the minister, is popping over on Wednesday to finalise the service – at which point all the details are okayed (or not!). I would like to play “I Wait” whilst communion is being taken, and then “on loop” after the service finishes. Will get back to you – but THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! 🙂

  4. “So He has given me at least five sermons and a number of different passages. So now I have stopped writing.”

    Ha! Welcome to the world of a teacher/preacher! And you might even share one of those sometime. 🙂
    I would go with what He’s been telling you all along. Lift Him up and let Him do the drawing. He’s pretty good at it. Enjoy the ride!

    • Mel, thank you. And as this gets closer, and I reflect on a minister’s earlier comment that “every week has a Sunday” (meaning putting a service and sermon together week after week – sometimes more than one each week – becomes a grind) … I wonder if it is possible to let each minister have as much space and fun as this is for me (because I sense that as well as offering “sermons”, He is also showing me how He wants things done every time).

      • I’ve been giving sermons almost every week for the last 15 years. The way to not make it a grind is exactly what you’re saying. Enjoying the process with God and inviting others into it. But I’m not limited by the liturgical framework so it’s a little easier for me to have that latitude. Blessings.

        • “Enjoying the process with God and inviting others into it.”

          The “inviting others” seems to be missing here a lot of the time. Yet I have been happily talking to a group about this first one – and am finding it difficult to imagine doing sermons as a “solo activity” in the future.

  5. Jesus said he only did what he saw / heard the Father doing / saying… he just opened his mouth and let Holy Spirit fill it, and he’ll do the same with / in / for you. Whether one or 101 people are there, God knows who they are, what they need, and how he wants to meet that need through you. (Just remember – he’s a God of infinite variety!)

    • Bette – thank you. Oddly your comment has been He has already shared: on or a hundred … makes no difference! Just as He has said a few times when I have remarked: “I am not sure I can do that” (about various elements) – “Good! That is just where you will hear Me the loudest!” and then chuckles loudly!! 🙂

      This is fun!!

  6. Paul, I have no doubt the filling of people’s hearts will happen, and they won’t mind a tittle whether it’s 60 minutes or 75.

    And what if the Spirit moves you to come out behind the lectern and sit at the edge of the “stage?” Wow, how outside of the box would that be? And how intimate? (Just imagining ;-o )

    I wish I could be there as one of those sheep.

    • Susan – thank you! And there is no lectern – expected numbers for the monthly evening service are so low, that the seats are arranged in a circle – so already very intimate (and might even manage a cuddle with our grandchildren as I am talking!!)

      And I am trying to arrange recording of the service to then make a podcast with a link – because all of you are so supportive (an extended family) I would love to include you (even in that way)

  7. Your church sounds identical to my own little Methodist church. On a “crowded day” we have maybe 30-35 people. 🙂 I like the intimacy of a small church…the family feel. I do not like Mega churches with “let’s see how many we can fit into this building”…then it becomes more about numbers and such. Numbers are good if it’s about winning souls for Christ. IMHO.

    I know you will be a blessing to all who hear the Word as it comes through you from our Father. I pray for the congregation to have open hearts to all that you will be for them. You are such a loving and kind person who has so much to give. You are chosen and that is enough. When you let the Holy Spirit work through you then all is well. I can’t wait to hear from you on the 11th!!

    HUGE Brandon bear hugs!!!!

    • Dale, what a comment! Thank you!!
      I had a final debrief today. And – as the sermons are coming thick and fast – was told with a lot of love that, at some point, I have to stop and go with one of them. That much as a painter will continue to “finish” a work of art for ever – that a work of art is never finished in the painter’s mind …. And whilst I understand why that was said, I also know that this is not a “work of art”. This is simply the good Lord making sure I know – really know – that He will provide (whatever is to be provided). And I now know that whatever “is to be provided” will be loving, safe and challenging – and for each of those who are there (as well as me).
      I would love to see full seats – just like you: if it’s about lifting Him up – and Him drawing us all close.
      HUGE thanks!! Brandon bear hugs are great!! 🙂

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