Since Sunday, October 16th, I’ve been preaching away in three different houses of worship. I’ll be back here; this is, back home this coming Sunday in case you missed me. I missed you but I have to say that I love when I have the opportunity to preach to other congregations.
Whenever I preach to a group of people who don’t know me, I always open with a true story from my days as an Associate Pastor at the Manoa Presbyterian Church because you never know how folks are going to receive you as a guest. One afternoon, I walked down the hallway of the Manoa Church. Outside my door stood a little girl who was four or five years old; and she was waiting to go into her afternoon class. It was Purple Day at the Manoa Nursey School and this girl wore a purple T-shirt with the name of school across the front. She had purple tights and a purple skirt and I believe purple sneakers. I couldn’t help commenting as I passed her, “You look like a big grape!” I meant it as a compliment but she didn’t receive it as such. Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said, “Oh yeah? Well, you look like a big giraffe.”
Let me give you a brief sketch of the places where I preached.
Westminster Choir College, Thursday, October 13th: Our organist, Colton Martin, asked me if I would be interested in attending a chapel service at the Choir College. I was highly interested because one, I had never set foot on the campus of this school where so many of my past and current colleagues went; and two, I thought that the music would be out of sight. On the second point, I was more right than I could have imagined. Picture a chapel full of gifted and committed young people who can sing their heads off. You may wonder if I sang. Not a chance. There was no way I was going to ruin those sounds of heaven with my crummy monotone.
Allentown Presbyterian Church, Sunday, October 16th: Before I preached at the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. services in the historic sanctuary of the Allentown (NJ) Church, I led about 30 men from the congregation in their annual fall retreat. The men and I traveled to Avalon, New Jersey on a perfect fall weekend at the shore. The men decided to pack up and head back for the 11:00 a.m. service where they would sing the anthem. I did sing in that motley chorus, but I sang softly, barely moving my lips. APC is one of my favorite congregations because they are buzzing with the energy and love of the Holy Spirit. There are children, teenagers and young adults everywhere you look. Before the start of the 11:00 a.m. service a group of twenty-somethings who were on the retreat started chanting the name of a woman who was sitting the balcony. For a moment, I thought I had wandered into a football game! An hour later I knew I had been in the joyous presence of the Lord.
Morrisville Presbyterian Church, Sunday, October 23rd: How about some pressure for the guest preacher? I was invited by the Stewardship Committee and Interim Pastor of the Morrisville Church to preach on their Stewardship Dedication Sunday! Basically, their whole stewardship emphasis boiled down to me preaching a sermon. The good people of that congregation listened to me with great openness. Everyone was invited to come forward and place a card with the amount of money they were committing to give in 2017. Following their single morning worship service, we walked downstairs to their Fellowship Hall for delicious lunch—this was a Presbyterian Church after all. During the meal, the chairperson of their Stewardship emphasis announced that the total pledged amount for the coming exceeded the previous year by 17%! Glory to God!
My bags and my Bible are unpacked. I’m looking forward to worshipping and preaching with you this Fifth Sunday. There’s no place like home!