Each week Pastor Sarah blogs on the Scripture for Sunday's upcoming sermon. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday's Scripture ~ Genesis 21: 8-21.
This week at South Shore UMC it is my privilege to welcome Rev. Dr. W. Alan Smith in worship leadership. Alan is Emeritus Professor of Religion at Florida Southern College. He retired from Florida Southern in 2015, following 28 years on the faculty of Religion and Philosophy. Alan is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has pastored congregations in the Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama-Northwest Florida, Pacific Southwest, and Florida regions. He has lectured in England, Scotland, and Finland as well as at numerous universities in the U.S. His academic credentials include advanced degrees from the Florida State University, Vanderbilt Divinity School, and the Claremont School of Theology, from which he earned the Ph.D. degree. He is the author of two books and numerous articles in academic journals. Alan is married to Dee Smith, the father of Nate and Skye, and the grandfather of Logan and Asher (who joined the family this May!)
While at Florida Southern I took a number of courses with Alan, and Andrew was one of Skye's dance partners while they were in high school together. It is my delight that he will share with our congregation.
This Sunday he will share a message based on the story of Hagar and Ishmael. I know that through it you will be blessed.
Last week my next door neighbor and I were outside enjoying the evening air with our kids.
(Also known as welcoming Mila and Joshua to run off as.much.energy.as.possible.)
He thanked me for watching their dog while he and his family went on vacation. Innocently, I asked about their trip. And I watched as my easy-going neighbor's face crumbled...and tears began to fall. He spoke with love of his aging parents whom they visited. He spoke of wanting to help them more and the tension of living so far away. He shared with me stories of his youth, of learning hard lessons, and how learning those hard lessons shape the lessons he shares with his daughters.
All the while he shared, he wept.
His driveway became holy ground.
When he finished his story, I gently took hold of his shoulder, once again made eye contact, and offered an assurance of God's peace and God's presence. My neighbor is culturally and nominally religious. My neighbor knows my vocation and respects my work. That night, through God's grace - through God's knowing - I was honored to be both neighbor and pastor. The sacredness of those moments I will treasure. And I will not soon forget.
My friends, when we experience hardship and loss, when we are angry and sacred, when we feel anxious and fearful, my friends - God knows. God knows. God sees. And God walks alongside. God is faithful in God's covenant to us. God is faithful in holding us accountable to God's covenant. Our God is - was, is, and forever will be.
Holy moments, like this one with my neighbor, are experiences available to all of us. It is through intentional development of our relationship with God that God helps us identify and engage these holy moments.
I believe that through this intentional development of our relationship with God that we experience a sacred shift. Yes, God knows. And then and through, we will know, too.
Prayer: "I need thee every hour, in joy or pain; come quickly and abide, or life is vain. I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee."* Amen.
*"I Need Thee Every Hour," The United Methodist Hymnal 397.