Archive for November, 2015

Here I Am, Lord

Baptism Day

Baptism Day-January 1994, with the Rev. Erich Thompson

Here is the sermon I preached on the First Sunday of Advent for my daughter’s confirmation and commissioning service.

Here I Am, Lord

Luke 1:26-38

Confirmation and Commissioning of Laura Mary Todd

A legend says that God approached others with plans for the birth of Jesus, but Mary was the first one who said yes. There were plenty of sensible reasons to say no. Allowing God to work through her in this way would make Mary the subject of all kinds of gossip. And what about her fiancé, Joseph? If he couldn’t accept this plan, what then?

Then there was the question, “Why me?” Aren’t kings supposed to come from royal, well-to-do families? Mary, and Joseph, if he chose to stay with her—did not have great means and social position. Could they really provide a suitable upbringing for this child?

The responsibility of bringing a child into this world is always an awesome one. But the child Mary was being asked to bear and raise had a mission that was vital to every man, woman, and child on the planet. Was she up to this task? I can imagine her worrying, “What if I mess up?”

No wonder Mary had misgivings. No wonder she exclaimed, “How can this be?”

Though it doesn’t come to us in that same way, the call Mary heard does come to us. It’s the call to let Jesus be born in and through our lives. It’s the call to let God work in and through us in order to bring goodness and blessing to a world that desperately needs it.

This is about much more than adding the words “Christian” or “church member” to who we are. This is about much more than what our final destination is going to be. This means responsibility. No longer can the focus be on me, myself, and I alone—what I like and what I want to do with my life. It means putting everything we are and everything we have on the line for love of God and for love of the world God loves. If we find ourselves asking questions like whether or not we are really up to it, we are in good company.

Whenever a new person comes into being, God dreams of what God

Laura and her Grandma at worship.

Laura and her Grandma at worship.

can do in that person’s life. Before my husband, John, and I started hoping and dreaming, God was already dreaming of the blessings God could share through Laura’s life. When we learned that Laura was on the way, the Morton faith family started getting ready, too. I stood beside the baptismal font and told you all that we were going to need to use it in a few months.

Laura was born loved and called, and on her baptism day and in all the years since, the Morton Church has helped her hear God calling. With us you’ve helped Laura know Jesus and his love, and helped her hear Jesus calling. You saw how Laura could use her gifts to serve the Lord, and you welcomed them. We are so grateful.

Laura has heard that call, to share the outrageous love of Jesus Christ, and to be a blessing, and she is here today to say yes out loud. “Yes, here I am!” Many unknowns and decisions lie ahead as life unfolds. One that is coming up soon is what to do after college graduation. Laura is wondering whether God is calling her to be a Presbyterian Young Adult Volunteer in Mission next year. She is working on her application. If that’s where God wants her, how might God use that experience to clarify what comes next?

When Mary wondered how all these things could be, God’s messenger reassured her that God was with her. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit were with her. The Holy Spirit answers the “how” question. At that, Mary said, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”

God is still seeking people who will let God work in and through them to bring love and light to others; looking for people who don’t automatically answer “Not me!” but instead ask, “Why not me? Why not us?” People ready to say YES.

Here Laura is. And here we are, too. Lord, let it be to all of us according to your word.

Grownup Laura, second from left, helps other children know they are loved.

Grownup Laura, second from left, helps other children know they are loved.



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In a blogpost entitled A Child Speaks About Church, pastor Steve Lindsley and director of children and family ministries Lynn Turnage share six things children need from a church.  They write as if a child is speaking.  Here is the list.  Click on the post to read the details for each point.

  • Just tell me the Bible story.
  • Remember: I can’t sit still for long.
  • Give me, at the bare minimum, an hour a month with the pastor.
  • My best adult teachers/leaders/volunteers are the ones that I KNOW care about me.
  • Give me some responsibility in the church.
  • I like to be with my family and all ages together in worship.

On that last point, here is some of what they add: “You think I don’t want to be in worship during the sermon because it’s ‘boring.’ I actually listen to what they say and it sticks with me–as you are well aware in other contexts, I’m great at remembering everything you adults say.  All things being equal, I’d rather stay in worship with my church family–we call ourselves a family, right?  I might get a little antsy (worship bags will help). But I promise you I won’t fall asleep like that dude in front of me every week.  Surely you’ve seen him.”

Thanks for some good food for thought, Steve and Lynn!

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