Although most of my posts are still about being out west, Tom and I have actually been in Ohio since November 6. We have been busy doing the usual things: seeing friends, spending time with family, and getting in doctor appointments. I also spent two Sundays preaching as a visiting pastor at Lexington Church of the Cross United Methodist. My parents attend there, and Rev. Glenn Hamilton asked if I would fill in for him while he is on vacation.
Preaching as a visiting pastor is always different from preaching as the regular pastor. As a visiting preacher, you have the privilege of talking about God to a group of strangers. You can say pretty much anything you want, and you don’t have to hear about it at meetings during the week or be held responsible for it months later. Also, anything I say will sound fresh – even if the sermon is full of cliches or platitudes – because the people aren’t used to me. On the other hand, it can be a challenge to connect to a congregation when you aren’t the pastor of the church.
Many people tell me I have a gift for preaching. I am a good public speaker and I can quickly connect with a congregation. My sermons are generally organized and coherent. People can hear me and usually understand my main points. Thus, preaching is one of the highlights of ministry for me. I get a lot of positive feedback from my sermons.
Although I work hard in my preparation, preaching as a visiting pastor is a joy to me. Getting to do it two Sundays in a row is a special blessing. And preaching in front of my parents and people I have known all my life is a gift.
Of course, this is also the church where I grew up. Whenever I go preach, I have people who still see me as the obnoxious teenager I was. Or as the grade-school student who thought she knew more about the Bible than her Sunday School teachers. One woman yesterday hugged me and told me “I always knew you were special.” I felt like she was talking to a special-needs child! Sometimes it is hard to act like a grown-up when you go “home!”
If all I did was preach, I might get a big head and start thinking that I am something special. Fortunately there are plenty of things I don’t do as well as preaching. And, if I started to think too much of myself, I’m sure Tom, John, or my parents would pull me back into shape. We each have gifts that we are to use in God’s service. Strengths that shine God’s light. But we also have weaknesses and areas of imperfection. Praise God that our gifts can work together for God’s glory!
I am thankful that my gifts can be used in the church. But I am more thankful for your spiritual gifts, because they cover areas of my weakness. When we all use the gifts God has given, we build up the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. . . . 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. . . . 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.