God Is Not Finished With Us Yet

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

John 21.1-19

When I was young, about 10 or so, there was a period in my life where I was a shameless zealot for God. It was before we moved to Hawaii, and my dad and me along with him got swept up into the charismatic movement if you know what that was. It started in southern California and I was anointed by the Spirit to proclaim the truth. And I was encouraged to go out witnessing and was brought to parks and shopping malls and tracts were put in my hand to go up to people and hand them to them to talk about the gospel. About how to save their souls for Jesus Christ.

And one of these little tracts… I remember one of them… in particular was a cartoon, it was drawings, and I remember it picturing Judgment Day. And in this comic a scared man dies and goes to appear before the throne of glory. And he’s shown all of his sins that he thought were hidden, but of course God has seen. And the climax, the last few pages of the comic, there’s this big hand coming down from heaven, pointing at the scared man, cowering on the side in the corner of the page. And there’s a little bubble above his head, the voice from heaven, “Depart from me ye cursed one into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” The point of the tract, of course, was that if you wanted to avoid that fate, you’d better accept Jesus and now before a car runs you over. Before you fall out of an airplane or drop dead or something. Oh, and by the way, God loves you.

Can you imagine a 10-year-old handing out that tract in a park? I wasn’t very good at it. I don’t think I saved many souls for Jesus. But during that time, my parents gave me a tee-shirt that became one of my favorites. I wore it as many times as I could before my mother made me take it off and throw it in the laundry. It was a simple shirt, eventually became quite tattered. I had a hole here and a tear in the seam but I kept wearing it, it was my favorite. Eventually I outgrew it. But it was a very simple shirt. It just had some letters on it… PBPGINFWMY… It’s an acronym: Please Be Patient God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.

And I loved it because everywhere I went people would ask me, “What does that shirt mean?” and I would tell them about Jesus! Little did I know that in my youthful exuberance, little did I know how true that was. Little did I know how far I had yet to travel from that state of youthful exuberance, when I was using big, religious words that I had no understanding of what they meant. Little did I know how many twists and turns my journey would take, sometimes closer to God and many, many times farther away. God was not done with me yet.

I am still on that journey, and very often I find myself pleading with God and pleading with others, “Please, please be patient.” That shirt, PBPGINFWMY, would have been fitting for Peter in our story. It would have been fitting if he had put that shirt on. Perhaps you know Peter, he was the disciple who exemplified the youthful exuberance for the Lord. On that last night, before his arrest, when Jesus was sitting with his disciples… Peter exclaimed to him, “Lord! I will lay my life down for you! I am with you to the end Jesus! I love you! I’m there for you!” But then, only hours later, when the chips were really down and Jesus was really in trouble, Peter would deny having any connection with him.

But God wasn’t finished with him yet. Later after his resurrection, Jesus would appear to his disciples and say, “Peace be with you.” And he would say, “As my Father has sent me, so I now send you into the world. Go.” But instead of going out into the mission field, apparently the disciples with Peter leading the way, go back home to Galilee and to the one activity they know best. They go fishing. God was not finished with them yet.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Affirmations of Faith

    On the last Sunday of October, ‘Mission Sunday,’ many of you helped us pack more than two hundred bags for a local school food distribution program.  Those bags of food went out to local schoolchildren, who live in food insecure settings, to keep their bellies full. The food we provided has the potential to ensure the schoolchildren are more successful in life and in their education.  In worship we sometimes use the phrase ‘Affirmation of Faith’ and then repeat a longstanding confession of the church, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Brief Statement of Faith. I value reciting these affirmations, because they remind us of the core values we hold as Christians. But as I was thinking about this over the last few months, I believe that such mission work to the community around us is an even deeper affirmation of our faith by acknowledging Jesus’ call upon our lives, and then living out that ministry.

    I want to share information with you this month about another ministry which I believe is an affirmation of our faith. You have heard us talk about it quite a bit but may not know the details. For years now the Deacon’s Fund at First Presbyterian Church has provided financial assistance to those in our community facing immediate financial need that impacts their ability to live a healthy and productive life.

    There are social services around town, which provide supportive and meaningful resources, but there can be qualifications and restrictions associated with the access of those services. The Deacon’s Fund strives to offer judgment-free ministry to those who are facing financial challenges in life and helps people access these services.

    Barbara Troisi and Beth MacDonald are currently our two Deacon’s Fund facilitators.  They spend time each month looking at applications for assistance, and then distribute funds, which may involve multiple phone calls, trips to the store for Smith’s gift cards (useful for food or fuel), and various other tasks.  Prior to Beth and Barbara, other wonderful people contributed their efforts to this ministry: Linda Roberts, Tina Purintun, Kelly Rhea, Terry Brennand, Barbara Lutz (I am sure I have left a name or two off, please forgive me). Pam Riffe also makes contributions and supports people applying for these funds in her role as our office administrator.

    These are some of the ‘saints’ of the church. These are angels among us – superheroes, one might say – who make time in their lives to help others.

    The Deacon’s Fund recently received a large contribution from a couple in our community.  They are not part of our church, but they learned of our efforts to help local people through some friends who are church members.  They made this contribution to help those who are struggling to find sustainable and affordable housing. They wanted to make a significant contribution to help with housing issues and knew that First Presbyterian Church would be a wonderful avenue for those efforts. I am thankful for everyone who makes contributions to the Deacon’s Fund, small or large (most offerings to this ministry come in $10, $20, or $100 increments). Over the decades these dollars have helped hundreds of people in our community in moments of great need. This is truly part of the mission of the church, and one of the callings Jesus has placed upon us.

    Beth MacDonald is transitioning out of her role as a Deacon’s Fund facilitator at the end of the year (she will be plenty busy helping to organize and lead the Westminster Bell Choir). Thank you, Beth, for your efforts. This means we are looking for a new Deacon’s Fund coordinator to work alongside Barbara Troisi. If any of you would like to help, please let me know. If you have questions about this ministry, please talk to Beth, Barbara, or me. Beth has set up a nice spreadsheet to help keep track of funds received and funds dispersed. You don’t need to be a financial expert or math whiz to fill this role, only to have a caring heart.

    The ministry efforts of Mission Sunday and through the Deacon’s Fund are two of the wonderful aspects of First Presbyterian Church. Our calling as a faith community is certainly to worship and praise the Lord, but also to share the good news and make helpful, life-affirming contributions to the community and world around us. I pray that our ministry together continues to be vigorous.

    May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all,

    Pastor Derek

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