April 28, 2019
Tell about It
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had
directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
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The poet Mary Oliver says that the way to really live a life is to
Tell about it
The hardest part for most of us may be the last one: ‘Tell about it.” At least when it comes to faith, a lot of us don’t talk about it much. There are probably a hundred reasons for that, and I won’t rehearse them here. Let’s just say it’s a lot easier to share about our children or grandchildren, our hobbies, our work, even our political opinions, than it is about those deep God-moments that touch us to the core. Our souls are shy about those things. Maybe we’re just vulnerable.
So I thought this morning it might be helpful to hear some other people’s stories. At first I thought I’d just tell you some I’ve heard from people in this church; because people do share those stories with me sometimes. But then I thought it would be even better if you could hear from some the people who experienced them. That it might be a lot more helpful if they could lead you in worship by telling their own stories. That maybe – just maybe – it might inspire you to remember, and tell, those stories, too.
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The first story comes from Bill Acklin – it’s something that happened to him in the last couple of weeks – about where he saw Christ in the face of someone else. How God showed up unexpectedly.
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Karen asked me to share an experience that I had on April 10 when I was volunteering for the Salvation Army. But before I share that experience I need to set the stage and go back to Karen’s sermon on April 7. You may recall that Karen’s sermon focused on Matthew chapter 25 versus 31 through 46 in which Jesus used the parable of separating the sheep and the goats to determine who will be allowed to enter Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus says to the sheep on the right, I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink and I was a stranger and you invited me in. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you and see you thirsty and give you something to drink. Jesus replies, I tell you the truth whatever you did for the one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.
Carl Lehman and I were the men’s Bible study volunteers to serve the Salvation Army on April 10. We had completed our run of collecting food items from 7 different restaurants in the area, plus Denison University and Newark High School and had returned to the Salvation Army and preparing to unload the van that was full of food items we have collected that day. I knocked on the dining room door so we could gain access to the storage facility where we would unload the food items. That was when I encountered a middle aged black man standing by the door presumably waiting for the dining rooms doors to be opened for the noon lunch.
When we started unloading the van he asked if he could help. I said yes and so he helped us unload the van. On and off during the time that we spent unloading the van he made some comments about Jesus blessing him or comments like that. I didn’t pay much attention as we walked back and forth from the van. When we finished I asked him if he would like a doughnut that we had picked up that day from Jolly Pirate. He said yes and I because he was so helpful I asked him if he would you like two. He took another doughnut and then he asked if he could have a bottle of water. I found some water bottles in the cooler so I grabbed one and gave it to him. After that we were all leaving the building and as we were stepping outside I heard him say in a low voice: Be still and know that I am.
Well, I wasn’t paying much attention up until that point but when he said that he caught my attention and I said to myself wow that’s a verse from the 46th Psalm—one of my favorite Psalms. For those of you who are Stephen ministers, I’m sure you too are familiar with this verse because it’s a verse that we use in an exercise that will bring you peace and helps us listen. You repeat the verse and each time you drop a word. For example: Be still and know that I am God; Be still and know that I am and so forth. After that he went on his way, I waved goodbye, and he walked to the back of the lot and not to the door to the dining room and I never saw him again.
But, I never forgot him either as the experience made a big impression on me. I pray for him whoever he is that he will continue to be a messenger to all he meets. The following Sunday I told Karen and when I told Karen she almost lost her breath and she said oh Bill you have to share this experience. I said I would share it with my Bible study brothers and friends. Later she would ask me to share it today.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Karen put it all into perspective with her Easter Sunday sermon theme—Instructions for Living a Life: Pay Attention, Be Astonished and Tell About It. At the time of my experience on April 10, I was not paying attention, I was thinking about what I had to do on the way home after I finished at the Salvation Army. But, after that man said what he did he caught my attention, believe me, and I was astonished and amazed and now I’m talking about.
So, that’s it. I’m not sure what to think; was this just a chance encounter, a coincidence or was it something more, something that was supposed to happen, a God like incident? Was this man a messenger from God? Maybe? Maybe not? Regardless, there was a message for me and I’m inclined to think that it was a God incident I will not forget because I believe that God is at work in our midst. For this I am forever grateful and feel blessed.
Now, using Karen‘s words from the Easter message I say pay attention something like this could happen to you and when it does you’ll feel astonished, believe me and when it happens I ask you to share because it will be a powerful experience. Thanks be to God!
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The second story comes from Rose Duffus, about a change she didn’t want or ask for – and where she saw God in it.
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My name is Rose Duffus and I would like to tell you where I have seen Christ in my life. I See Christ in the people that God sends into my life to guide me.
When I was 12, I was going through a very stressful time. As many 12-year-old girls do. I was experiencing extreme teen drama. My friends hated me and that was OK because I hated them too. I was struggling to find my identity.
In the middle of that my father announced that we were changing churches. I didn't want to switch, I loved my old church I grew up there I had so much fun there. I knew everyone, all of the adults to the babies. They would tell stories of me falling down the stairs and stories of me being really loud, asking why everyone was quiet during prayer in the middle of service. I knew no one at the new church.
I was introduced to Ellen. She told me to come to Sunday school. Which I did after a while. I would come every now and then. By the end of the school year I still didn't enjoy coming to church. But Ellen kept encouraging me to come to church events. Then she invited me to go to Massanetta and a lock-in and to help make care packs.
Every night I would pray hoping that God was listening asking if he could help me and let me go back to my old church. A year later, I don't want to go back. God knew it was best for me to stay at this church.
I still have many friends at our old church but now I also have new friends at this church. I feel very good about myself these days. I thank God every day for watching over me and sending all of you people into my life. Thank you.
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The third story comes from Joe Leithauser, who is on Session and chairs the Stewardship committee. He’s had a pretty big change in the way he’s paying attention to God – and the impact that’s had on him.
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At a recent session retreat Karen asked the question, “Joe, have your kids had a transformational experience because of our church?”. My answer was no, I can’t think of a time they have left a Sunday service transformed. The conversation at the retreat continued, I listened and reflected. When there was a break in the thoughtful conversation, I said “wait, I’d like to change my answer. All of my kids have had transformational experiences because of our church, I’ve just never named it as such.”
See I was thinking in muffin tins – Sunday is the time for church and for God, and all the good that happens on Sunday. The thoughtful sermons, the fellowship after the service, all that happens on Sunday is because of God. During Sunday dinner we talk about the sermon, what lessons did we hear and how it applies to our lives. Sunday is God day, the time for transformational experiences. All that fits nicely in my Sunday muffin tin and we don’t talk about it the rest of the week.
When I thought more deeply, I thought of the transformational experience my daughter had at camp, she was responsible for 8 young campers over 6 weeks. This was possible in part due to the care she has received as a member of this church and the trust our church family gave to Clare to watch their kids. I thought of Sara Sharp who is working with our son Peter to stay on track in school and live into his potential. I thought of Sally who told us in a hotel in Vegas, “thanks for letting us live in Granville.” God brought Susan and I together, God gave us Sally, God brought us to Granville surrounded by this amazing faithful congregation. All of these experiences have transformed our children and we have our church and our God to thank for this. It just didn’t happen neatly on a Sunday so I never named it as God working in our lives.
What I realized during the Session retreat is that God is not something I can put in a muffin tin, God’s great works are more like a sheet cake. Spread across all corners of our lives.
Last week while working with a new client in Atlanta, she mentioned her son’s passion with Anime, a style of art that has its home in Japan. I mentioned that I had a friend whose son is a working Anime artist and that I could make an introduction. Turns out that her son has been following Garrett’s work on-line for years and now they have a relationship.
A good friend and colleague recently passed, he had moved to California some years ago and that was where the funeral was being held. As I was driving home that night disappointed that I would not be able to attend his funeral, a rainbow appeared in the sky over Rt 161.
Since the Session retreat I am more aware, I have been able to notice God’s astounding work in my life and the life of others. I can now name it and thanks for this opportunity to tell about it.
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So there are some stories from some people who’ve paid attention, been astounded, and were willing to tell about it. I am incredibly grateful they did.
Now what about you? What are the stories in your life, where you’ve experienced God’s presence?
Can you tell about it, too??