Sermon transcript for August 26, 2012
Mark 1:16-20; 1 Corinthians 12:4-26
Belmont UMC—August 26, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching
Early one Monday morning, during the years I served as the pastor of Connell Memorial UMC in Goodlettsville, I received a phone call from a woman I’ll call Mary. Mary had an urgent tone in her voice when she said she needed to see me, if at all possible. We made a plan to meet at the office that morning. When she walked in, she was serious but focused and she said, “Evidently, it is no longer possible for me to merely come to church and worship, put a gift in the offering plate, and go home. At the end of worship yesterday I knew that I was being called to do something more with my life. I need to find a way to serve and live my faith throughout the week.”
I asked, “Where do you think you are being called to serve?” She said, “My husband and I are not wealthy but we have always have plenty, and I have always felt a need to reach out to the poor and others in need.” An hour later I drove Mary to the local help center, introduced her to the director, also a church member, and that day she became a regular volunteer, working with those whose paycheck ran out long before the end of the month. She assisted them with food boxes, paying utility bills and locating resources to meet their needs. She would say later, “This is exactly where Jesus wants me to be.”
I related to Mary’s call to serve. A similar call came to me when I was 19 years old and it would not go away. I knew that I was being called to be a pastor in the United Methodist Church and I pushed back at this call until I could push no longer. You have heard me share before that the call was surprising to me and my family because I was the shy one in my family, always fearful of standing in front of others and speaking. But God had a plan and God had some work to do to fulfill it.
I want to use this time to offer words of gratitude, gratitude for those who took me by the hand and guided my journey into and through ministry. When I told my parents and pastor I was being called to ministry, they sent me to meet the District Superintendent. Reverend Lexie Freeman and his wife, Edith, whose parsonage was near the university I attended, took me under wing and would not let go of me until I was licensed to preach in 1973. I was invited into their home for many lunches. We always ate hot dogs and potato chips, and as a college student I had learned to receive free food with gratitude. Years later, when I was ordained, I was honored to have Reverend Lexie standing with me and placing his hand on my head.
I’m here today because of people like the Freemans. I’m here today because of people like you whose gifts on Sunday morning supported the work of my District Superintendent, my campus minister and mentor, Reverend Vin Walkup, the Board of Ordained Ministry who guided me through candidacy and into ordination. Your gifts supported United Methodist Colleges and seminaries and provided Ministerial Education Funds so I could afford to get a seminary education. And in the years to come your gifts will continue to support me in my retirement. There are over 40 active and retired clergy related to this congregation and they would want to join me in thanking you for your support. As you look around at the faces of these clergy persons you will know that they have served faithfully and your support of them has helped change the direction of many lives.
I would be remiss if I did not say a thank you to my wife, who was a preacher’s kid and vowed never to marry one. Forty years ago today we were doing the last minute preparations for our afternoon wedding. For forty years she has moved with me through ministry and she has been there to encourage me all along the way. And we have been blessed to serve alongside many wonderful people like you.
The Gospel text chosen for today reminds us that Jesus calls us to follow him. The epistle text reminds us that we are not all called to the same work. Some are called to be pastors but everyone’s call is important to the work of the church. We are reminded that we need each other as the various parts of the body need each other to function. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.’” And many, many times I, as a pastor, have been on the receiving end of ministry because a lay person heard and responded to Jesus’ call.
I went through a rather difficult stretch of ministry. The people I served were good and kind, but I did not practice self care and I became physically and emotionally exhausted. I came to a point of resignation. The church was growing in every way, but I was struggling and wondering how I could continue in ministry. The truth was that I could not continue on the path I was traveling.
One day two young men from the church walked into my office unannounced. I loved these young men and had taken them into the church. I welcomed them into the office and one of them said something like this, “We came today because we love you and we would not be in this church if you had not made a difference in our lives. And we don’t know what’s going on with you, but something has changed and we are worried about you. We will do anything we can to help you.”
I felt free to tell those young men about my personal struggle. And that day was a turning point for me because these young men responded to Jesus’ call to bring me this important message of encouragement and love.
And I am reminded that each Sunday we come together with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness to follow Jesus that we are part of great covenant of Christ followers who have heard Jesus call to follow. We are gifted for ministry and we are richly connected to one another.
Sermon transcript for August 19, 2012
Belmont UMC—August 19, 2012
Kara Oliver, preaching
Audio - MP3