This week I am spending a week with my family. I thought I’d share a sermon I team preached with my Dad on July 18, 2010. We were invited back to St. John UCC in Maeystown, Illinois for their 150th anniversary. This was the church my Dad served for 13 years. It is the church where I was confirmed, ordained, and officiated my sister’s wedding. My niece and nephew have been baptized there too. It is a church with much history for my family. It is still filled with people who nurtured my faith and supported me from my junior high years until adulthood.
You’ll notice that my Dad and I have very different preaching styles. Enjoy!
Do an introduction and say we are glad to be here.
Then I can say where I am living now and lead into…
This Scripture passage from Deuteronomy is a call for all of us to love God and share stories of faith with others. Here we are called to teach our children well. Some of you may think this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t have children or because your children are grown and have children of their own. This call for instilling God’s word into the next generation is aimed at each one of us. When a child is baptized we make promises to help the parents raise the child in the way of faith. The pastor asks the members of the congregation, “Do you who witness and celebrate this sacrament promise your love, support, and care to the one about to be baptized as she lives and grows in Christ?” The congregation responds with, “We promise our love, support, and care.”
These words from Deuteronomy are urging us to teach all of our children well just like the promises we’ve made. This passage fits well with Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Train children in the right way and when old, they will not stray.” We are all here today because someone (or many someones) supported us on our faith journey. It may have been your parents, a Sunday School teacher, a pastor, a kind person in the church, or a friend who invited you to church.
Many people who supported me on my faith journey are here today in these pews. It is because of you and many who are no longer here that I stand before you today. Without the congregation of St. John UCC in Maeystown, Illinois I would not be preaching today. Some of you may have been here for my first sermon ever which was preached from this pulpit on a youth Sunday. I do not remember what I said. I do remember 2 things about it. 1-My sermon was very short. 2-Everyone in worship that day offered me support and blessing on my sermon. Not only do I have the privilege of preaching to the congregation that nurtured me in my youth, I am preaching with my Dad. As you know, he was the pastor of this church for 13 years and my pastor from birth. More importantly, he is my Dad. And in all these roles instrumental in my faith journey. Other congregations and other family members have played significant roles in my faith journey. I could spend days telling you stories of support and care and instruction I remember from my childhood and youth. Instead, I’d like all of us to take a moment and think about who you remember reciting God’s word to you when you were a child or a youth or an adult.
Anniversaries – remind us
How long we have been doing something…
How long we have been somewhere…
How long a church or family or anything has existed….
How many people have been apart of the group…
How times have changed…
How the story has been passed on and expanded…
How much has been accomplished by the group…
Of life and death – of gladness and sorrow – successes and failure…
Of every element of life — and — I pray — How God has been apart of it…
In 1985 this church celebrated 125 years as a gathered people of God and to honor
that event, to remember the past, and to look to the future — a book was written
Grace in the Past… Faith for the Future
As the book of Deuteronomy begins the Israelites are remembering God’s grace in the past. They are preparing to enter the promised land. These are not the slaves who Moses led out of Egypt. This is the next generation who have spent their whole lives anticipating the promised land. Before they enter the land flowing with milk and honey, Moses gives them some last instructions to help them live well with each other. Chapter 5, just before what I read in Deuteronomy is the 10 commandments. Moses is reminding them that they need to know these and live these. And then comes the chapter we heard today. If the people remember and live the commandments, life in the promised land will be as God had promised. Moses is reminding them that they will need faith for the future. It is because of these faithful followers or as we say in our communion prayer-faithful men and women that we can celebrate this anniversary today.
As the Israelites prepare to enter this new land and as we daily prepare to go out into the world, we are reminded to love God and love our neighbors. This is how Jesus summed up the 10 commandments that Moses is imploring the Israelites to remember and live. Loving God and loving our neighbors allows us to remember the grace we’ve experienced in the past and we’ve heard other tell us about. It also strengthens our faith for the future. I may not be here for our next anniversary but someone will. What a gift. And what a story this congregation has lived through the years and shared with many others.
Isn’t that exactly was the story has been all about……
First — because God has created us and continually loves us
God has shared with us God’s grace – that wonderful blessing
that helps us relate to God and one another — and keep the relationship in order
as God forgives our sins, guides our path, and points us to the hope of a life eternal
Second — being each one of us and all those others who have or will share here at St John have been filled with and guided by God’s grace – through the sharing others… we have become people of Faith and that faith will guide us into the Future so we can continue to Tell the Story — Pass on the Good News —
So not only those like Lois who was a 1st generation Christian or Eunice who was a 2nd generation Christian or Timothy who was a 3rd generation Christian — but each one of us also might be a 1st generation Christian or a 3rd generation Christian or a 33rd generation —- it continues to happen because SOMEBODY told SOMEBODY ELSE the story — and that PERSON — BELIEVED….
And TOLD still ANOTHER PERSON….
Yes, MOSES told the people what to say and how to do it — and they Passed On—– then JESUS — in the flesh — brought the WHOLE STORY to LIFE — and PASSED IT ON…. And then it went to TIMOTHY and his family……………..and now down to US…. And then on to OTHERS…
Yes, the Hymn writer — rejoiced in it…and helps us declare it
I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY……. or
IT ONLY TAKES A SPARK TO GET A FIRE GOING…
AND SOON ALL THOSE AROUND WILL WARM UP TO ITS GLOWING…THAT’ S HOW IT IS WITH GOD’S LOVE —
ONCE YOU’VE EXPERIENCED IT … YOU SPREAD HIS LOVE TO EVERY ONE — YOU WANT TO PASS IT ON
150 years and counting of Telling the Story – Passing It On
Yes….. that STORY of
GOD’S GRACE that was with US in the Past
GOD’S GRACE that guides US to FAITH Today………
FAITH that will be Ours for TODAY and on into the FUTURE..
Thank YOU — Dear God —
For ALL the PEOPLE who have gathered here in these 150 years
For this PLACE that has SUPPORTED and NUTURED THEM
For all YOUR GRACE that has filled this Place & its People
For the FAITH that is here that will Guide Us into a FUTURE with YOU Amen.