Sermon Shorts 10-1-2023

Preaching the Same Old Sermon

He was a guest speaker. He knows his other position was professor of evangelism. Then in chapel he preached the same thing. And then at our baccalaureate graduation service, he preached the same thing.

 And whenever I heard him do that at what is arguably the richest, the most influential institution in the UMC, I have to say I rolled my eyes. I judged. This man for reference, Greg Jones, is a member of a United Methodist dynasty. We don’t have a lot of those.

 Probably two or three. He’s the brother of a bishop who’s now the top leader in the global Methodist Church. He is a former university president and seminary professor as well as interestingly a former Dean of Duke. He had come back at the time.

 This guy is one of the most dominating figures in the last two decades of the UMC and somehow he couldn’t even come up with two unique sermons over the course of six months. This is the best you could do and you know what else? I have his book. We had to read his book for my mission and evangelism class.

Questioning if God is With Us

I hear it in conversation in the church, on the street, in the grocery store. I feel it in a spirit that can seem to rest over western Pennsylvania sometime. We have kind of a thing about this. And I know the sentiment can be there at church council meetings, across the partnership from time to time.

 Whether or not it’s said out loud, is this really worth it? Is the Lord really with us or not? Wherever God is sending us right now, wherever we’re being led, we don’t really want to go. We want to go back to Egypt. If the promised land is somewhere over the desert horizon, we’d just as soon turn around thanks, because this is painful. There’s pain on the way to the promised land.

 Why would God bring us this far just to suffer? Dean Jones joked about it using a phrase that I’ve heard other preachers reference here and there. I think he said he got.

Wanting to Go Back to Slavery

In this miraculous intervention from God. But now as the honeymoon period of emancipation has evaporated, they’re railing against God and against Moses for leading them out of their confinement, which was familiar, into a scary and uncertain freedom. They want to go back. They’re getting thirsty and they want to go back.

 They want to go back through the Red Sea that God had split open to bust them out. They want the miracle reversed. They want to go back to Pharaoh’s oppressive clutches. They’re hungry, they’re thirsty, they have no idea where they are.

And all they can see all around them is just this ocean of rock and sand as far as the eye can see. Egypt was terrible, yeah, but at least they knew it was coming every day. And the slave masters always kept them fed enough to keep them toiling every day. They might not have eaten well, but they were going to eat.