Every once in a while, I am asked to fill in for a pastor when he or she is going on vacation, is ill or has to be away from their church for any other reason. Several years ago, I did quite a bit of preaching for a small church in Tipton, IN when the pastor was on vacation and headed to Israel for several weeks. And it came to pass that whenever he was gone, I got the call to drive up and take over the service in his absence. I really enjoyed engaging with the people of the church and had a wonderful time preaching God’s message from the pulpit.
Another time, also several years ago, I had the honor of delivering the Good Friday message in Noblesville for a consolidated group of churches who were worshipping together. There were a number of us who conducted the service in the spirit of unity and I was asked to be the one to deliver the sermon.
On other occasions, I have done what is called “pulpit supply” at a number of other churches as well. Sometimes, of course, I have a schedule conflict, but whenever I can, I try to accept the call to stand in the pulpit and deliver God’s word to the people. I have to tell you that I really enjoy that experience. It’s quite a responsibility and most people don’t realize that it takes about twenty hours of study to develop a sermon from scratch. That is, unless you go out on the internet and just steal somebody else’s work. And while you would think that pastors would be beyond reproach and not stoop to using another pastor’s work, you’d be surprised at how often it happens – one of the “dark sides” of the “business” – people who don’t want to do their own hard work.
Normally, each minister has certain rules of engagement they follow when delivering a sermon. For example, I will not use a story unless it happened to me or I can verify that it is true. I will not use anything that has to do with hearsay or what may have happened to somebody else. I always depend on Scripture and make sure that I deliver a cogent message based on sound biblical principles. If I can go back and investigate the Greek or the Hebrew original languages, so much the better. And, as you can tell from my posts, I just love to use personal stories and experiences in my messages. Frankly, my sermons are pretty much like my posts – only longer. Can you stand it?
Anyway, last week I was asked to once again stand in and preach later this month – on June 24th at one of my favorite churches – Carmel United Methodist. I have filled in there before for my friend Greg McGarvey, the Senior Pastor, but this time, I am preaching in the contemporary service. And while I am usually asked to choose my own topic, this time I have been given an assignment. The sermon series is titled “The Gospel in Disney” and so I have to base my message on one of the Disney movies.
Last Sunday, Janet and I went to hear the first message in the series and it was on the movie”Aladdin” – with “Finding Nemo” next Sunday, then the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and then I’m up…. so at dinner last Sunday evening, Kristin, the boys, Janet and I all discussed many of the movies, both the old standards and the more modern Disney offerings. What really impressed me is that our grandchildren were able to pair specific movies with the biblical messages that were carried to the audience. For example, resurrection (think Snow White) or the least becoming the greatest (think Cinderella). I was really impressed with their understanding of the concept.
So, I have spent the last several days trying to decide what I will preach on – and based on a family vote, I have chosen a movie – Toy Story. Now I know that it will be tough to conform to the outline that I must follow, but the message of the movie is quite clear. In case you’re not familiar with Toy Story, it is about a boy and his toys. One of the toys worries about being still loved when he is damaged, but of course, that is not the case. And Andy, the boy who owns the toys, writes his name on the foot of his favorite toy, Woody. Hopefully, you can connect the dots that God writes His name on us as well, as we belong to Him, and even if we aren’t perfect, God loves us all the same.
The verse for this evening is the primary verse I consider when I get ready to preach. God is very clear about the need for pastors to accurately teach His word. It is a grave responsibility with dire consequences for those who teach falsehoods. From Rev. 22:18-19, ” I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
My encouragement this evening is to know that God loves you, in a much deeper way than Andy loves his toy Woody. And my prayer is that you will always speak the truth when it concerns the God of the universe and that you will take your responsibility seriously to honor and worship Him as you grow in your relationship with him. And, by the way, if you are local and want to hear more about Toy Story, please feel free to attend Carmel United Methodist Church June 24th for the 11:00 am contemporary worship – I’ll be there in person, God willing… Grace and peace…