Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Contending with Giants

Lectionary Reading: 1 Samuel 17:32-49

It seems like my time as the senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Edmond has been rushing to a close.  When it was announced it seemed like we would have lots of time together but that may have been an illusion!

Sheryl is expressing her enjoyment
of our wonderful congregation!
I so appreciate all of the kind words expressed in cards, emails, texts, Facebook messages and letters!  And of course, the conversations have been so uplifting.  When we planned the Ice Cream Social for June 13th, we were having such pleasant weather and forgot about how brutal the Oklahoma heat could be!  Thanks to all who braved the sun and I know I didn't get a chance to speak to everyone who came but I appreciate your presence regardless.

It may have been a little confusing on the timing of my leaving.  Because of the afternoon's "goodbye" event, some concluded that this was my last Sunday.  I'll actually be here for one more Sunday - June 20th will be my last Sunday in the pulpit before Rev. Scott Keneda takes over.  Our reasoning for having the farewell party a week early was that this Sunday is Father's Day and we didn't want to intrude on people's family gatherings or events.

I have appreciated all of the warmth expressed toward my preaching.  The sermon is a medium that is unique to worship in our culture today.  Speeches in general are not as common and most lecturers in education settings are moving to more interactive lessons.  Sermons have also evolved over the years and are now much shorter than they used to be.  Within my own career, I would say that I've made an effort to shorten my preaching time (although some days I don't always hit this attempt!).

Of course how one feels about the preacher often also affects the reception of the sermon.  I'm a much better preacher in the estimation of those who like me compared to those who don't!  Psychologically, as a pastor prepares to leave, his or her sermons may actually seem to get better and this may be due to a factor of nostalgia.  I'll take whatever I can get!

Some were also confused as to what exactly I'll be doing from here.  I won't be going to a church but to more of an administrative position.  As an Elder in The United Methodist Church, I was ordained to Sacrament, Word, Service and Order.  As a Senior Pastor, I enjoy sharing in the sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion), sharing the Word (preaching and teaching) and sharing in service with the congregation through mission work we've done together.  Being responsible to the Order of the church is more of an administrative calling.  It means keeping a church within its budget and making sure the committees are running smoothly according to our agreed upon polity (the Book of Discipline).

Starting July 1, I'll be the next District Superintendent of the Crossroads District (shown on the map in purple) where Edmond First happens to reside.  This means I'm taking the position of my direct supervisor.  While I will continue to lead through all four components, I will be leaning more heavily on order in this position.  

Our church is one of fifty different congregations that I'll oversee in this post.  I will be traveling each week and it will be my goal to worship in each of our churches within the first calendar year.  My intent is to bring the same joy to this work that I've tried to bring to the local church.  It is a privilege to serve as a pastor and the covenant we keep with the congregation and God is sacred.  As we have been apart during the pandemic, this tie that binds may be more precious than we realized.

I'm excited about the possibilities for ministry that Scott will bring to Edmond.  I'm praying for him during this transition and I would encourage you to do the same.  I'm confident that he'll be uplifted by the generosity of spirit that I've found among the laity of our church!  

My words are inadequate to express my appreciation for our congregation.  I'm looking forward to seeing the work that God continues in this church in the near future!  This Sunday, I'll be preaching on David and Goliath and my sermon title will be "Contending with Giants."  This story is a good reminder that faith helps us face change with courage!

In Christ,