Aug 10 2017

What Will Make the Sermon Really Great

Dear Friends,

It has been almost two months since we celebrated the 150th anniversary of our beloved faith community. On that beautiful Sunday in June, Rev. Bill Worley, our Conference Minister, preached a stirring message that people talked about for days afterward. He extolled God’s faithfulness. He connected our ministry with the other 165 churches in the Penn Southeast Conference. Bill shared testimony from his own faith journey, reflecting on his call to ministry and beckoning us to consider anew the call of God to our congregation. He wondered if people 150 years ago would have laughed if they were told of the profound impact that their humble commitment to Christ would have on the lives of those of us living and serving here in 2017. Bill encouraged us to welcome and engage God’s power for transformation and miracle; to risk “dreaming dreams” and “seeing visions”. He joined us for our feast of abundance in the pavilion after the service.

Now it is mid-August. I pray that the summer and its alternative rhythms have provided opportunities for each of you to receive God’s gift of Sabbath; that you have experienced much-needed refreshment, renewal, and revelation. In several weeks we will gather for Rally Day. A new Sunday School year will begin. The voices of the Choir will fill our sanctuary again. Children will be baptized. Witnessing Stewards will give testimony to the work of God in their lives. What will Bill’s message from June mean to us now?

It struck me even then that Reverend Worley was not only preaching to us about God; he was telling us about us. Such grace! Among many things, he said:

  1. that we were the friendliest church he had visited. It meant a great deal to him that everyone greeted him personally and introduced themselves.
  2. that our wearing of nametags said to him, “You want to know me”. Bill added: “We cannot be church if we do not know one another.”
  3. that he thanked God for what we have been doing, and prayed that it would continue.
  4. that the congregation has clearly benefited over time from good leadership.
  5. that the best congregations have great music!

Bill also challenged us. His sermon reflected on Genesis 18:1-15, the story of Sarah’s uncontrolled laughter when she heard that — by God — she would have a child in her old age! God’s promises would be fulfilled in surprising ways. He asked us: “What impossible thing could God do in your life that would make you laugh?” He assured us that what seems impossible to us is possible with God. Bill wanted us to think about how our ministry and faithfulness today will impact the people of faith 150 years from now. So many churches don’t think beyond this year’s budget or next year’s. But with God’s help we can! He asked us to imagine the Pastor of St. Andrew’s 150 years from now sitting on the chancel steps with the kids, sharing ancient pictures of all of us, as they celebrate what we did! Bill remembered the many mentors and teachers who helped shape his life, and had us considering the God-given roles that we will play in shaping future generations of the faithful.

It was a great day; a joyous and reverent time of appreciation. I thanked Bill from the bottom of my heart. I felt like God had sent him to us, to tell us things we needed to hear as we engage the next chapter of our story with God. Here’s a final thought: that what will make Bill’s sermon a really great sermon will be if we have listened carefully — and are eager to do something about it!

Yours in Christ,

P.S.: Take time to listen to Bill’s sermon (again) on our Facebook page.


Pastor Scott’s Archived E-pistles