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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  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

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