I enjoy laughing and I’ve been told one of my best characteristics is my laugh. I hope to bring laughter to the church so I want to begin my preaching ministry with you with a joke.
A minister dies and dressed in his clerical collar and colorful robe and stole, waits in line at the Pearly Gates. Just ahead of him is a guy dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket and jeans.
Saint Peter addresses the guy, “Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you to the Kingdom of Heaven?” The guy replies, “I’m Joe Green, taxi-driver from New York City.” Saint Peter consults his list, smiles, and says to the taxi driver, “Take this silken robe and golden staff, and enter into the Kingdom.” So, the taxi driver enters Heaven with his robe and staff.
The minister is next in line. Without being asked, he proclaims, “I am Pastor Michael O’Connor, head pastor of Saint Mary’s for the last 43 years.” Saint Peter consults his list and says, “Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” “Just a minute”, says the pastor, “that man was a taxi driver, and you issued him a silken robe and golden staff. But I get wood and cotton. How can this be?”
“Up here, we go by results,” said Saint Peter. “While he drove, people prayed – while you preached, people slept.”
I’ve only caught one person sleeping while I preached and he slept through every sermon every week. I don’t know that I’m on target to receive a silken robe and golden staff, but I am hopeful that I will get you to pray as much as a New York City taxi driver and not put you to sleep every Sunday morning like Pastor Michael O’Conner.
I choose this text from Acts chapter 6 for this morning because it reminds us that everyone has a role in the church.
In the first century community of Christ’s followers, the Apostles were the leaders of the church responsible for evangelism, preaching, leading worship, and administration of the community’s resources to provide assistance to those in need. They couldn’t do it all and some of the tasks weren’t being done well. As a result, the widows weren’t receiving the assistance they needed.
The Apostles decided to delegate some of their responsibility and raise up other leaders of the church. The church was called to choose 7 leaders who would take on the task of making sure the widows were taken care of so that the Apostles could focus preaching, evangelism and worship. Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus were chosen. The men came before the Apostles who laid hands on the men and prayed for them ordaining them to their calling as deacons.
This is a great reading for this morning as we begin a new ministry, a shared ministry. I, like the Apostles, recognize I can’t do it all. Nor should I try. I know everyone has expectations of me – some I’ll meet, some I’ll exceed, some I’ll fail to meet, and others are just unreasonable.
When I was with you in February, which seems like such a long time ago, but we’re finally here, in February, I shared with you the work the search committee and I talked about doing. The work of creating a ministry plan. You’ve already written a vision statement with Pastor Nik. I’d like to take you the next step, the step that will help you become the church God is creating within you and among you.
I’ll begin that work with you in late summer. First, I’d like to get to know you. I’m going to be calling you to schedule a time we can have lunch or coffee. You can invite me to have dinner or tea. I’ll try to attend the women’s groups and other groups. I prefer to gather around a table to initially get to know you because I think we have the best conversations when we’re comfortable and tables remind us of the Communion Table which Christ invites us to gather at for remembrance of His grace.
The other expectations of office hours, visiting, meetings and other ministry duties we’ll work out as we go to set reasonable expectations.
So, I have some expectations of you. There are 5 things that Adam Hamilton expects of the members of the church he serves. The largest United Methodist Church called the Church of the Resurrection. Those 5 expectations are things that I believe are reasonable for any pastor to expect of her congregation.
First, I ask that you attend worship regularly, whatever regularly means for you. For some, that means every Sunday. For others, that means once a month. For me, regularly is most definitely more often than Christmas and Easter.
Second, I ask that you engage in spiritual growth. Read your Bible. Pray. Read devotions. Join a women’s circle. Join a book club that reads Christian lifestyle and spirituality books. Study your Bible. I will be gauging from our conversations if starting Bible study and a prayer group are of interest. If so, we’ll start those soon.
Third, I ask that you participate in fellowship, such as coming to lunch after service today. I understand y’all like to eat together. I’ve had 3, and today 4 meals with you already. That’s a lot of fellowship you can participate in. Fellowship feeds our souls and creates a family from a gathering of people.
Fourth, I ask that you give to the church a tithe or offering, in proportion to your income. I don’t expect everyone to give $500 a month. Plan your monthly offering based on your household income and expenses and set a goal for yourself. I understand we’re going to be talking more about stewardship in a stewardship campaign soon.
Fifth, I ask you to serve others. The Bible tells us that we are all given spiritual gifts at baptism for the building up of others. I don’t want to take on every task around the church. If I’m doing it all, I’m denying you the opportunity to use your gifts to fulfill your calling. The ministry of a church is a partnership between the pastor and the congregants in which we share the tasks of the church and serving our neighbors.
I have added one item to the list of expectations. I ask that you pray for me and the church. Our relationship and our share ministry is more likely to be successful if we’re praying for one another.
A common metaphor for the spiritual life is a journey. Today, we begin a journey together for a season of learning and growing together. My last journey with the church in Bethany Illinois was one of healing. I am excited about what our journey will be. Amen.