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).
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!”