Monday, June 26, 2017
Scripture Lessons: Jeremiah 20: 7-13 and Romans 6: 1-11 Sermon Title: Sanctified Preached on 6/20/17 My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was a wonderful person. She died in the first year that I was here, and while we had only been here a few months there were those of you who gave memorial gifts in her honor. I can’t really say how much that gesture meant to me. I remember her fondly, and she was a character. She worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 50 years, and so dedicated herself to her work that she developed no hobbies other than shopping. Her favorite store was a place called Hammricks. It’s a place full of nick-nacks and potpourri. It’s one of the levels of Hell in Dante’s inferno to a 12-year-old boy, and I was there often with her at that age, walking through aisles, trying to understand how my grandmother could spend so much time in a place like that. From Hammricks my grandmother purchased a cat. It wasn’t alive or anything – it was decorative. A little cat curled in on itself for people like my grandmother to decorate their beds with. Before Sara and I were married, when we’d visit my grandmother, Sara was always asked to sleep in the master bedroom in the big, king sized bed, decorated with hundreds of pillows and this one cat curled up like it was sleeping, that Sara would kick onto the floor and bury under the pillows because she was sure the thing was going to come alive at any minute. Sara is smart. Perceptive. And it isn’t surprising that she was pretty much right about the cat. It was front page news in the Summerville paper: Hammricks sells stuffed Chinese alley cats to area residents. As soon as my grandmother heard about it, that these decorative cats of hers, had, in fact, at one time, been real cats, she rushed over to her favorite store and spoke to the cashier. “Good morning,” she said. And that’s all it took for the cashier to start apologizing: “Mrs. Bivens, we’re so sorry about those cats. We’re just mortified. I hope you can see past this horrible mistake. We’ve already packed the ones we had left and we’re ready to ship them back where they came from.” “So, you haven’t sent them back yet,” my grandmother said, “in that case, could you go back there and get me a couple more. I need them for the guest bedrooms.” That’s about my favorite story. And it’s funny, because if you know better, if you know the decorative cats are real cats, you shouldn’t buy any more. If you know better, you shouldn’t. It’s like chitlins – if you know what they are, you shouldn’t eat them, but I do. And it’s like sin – if you’ve been saved from it, forgiven of it, then you shouldn’t anymore, but considering what we’ve learned about justification, what’s to keep us from doing it? Many churches don’t preach the kind of justification that you heard preached last Sunday. In some churches, a warning is preached: don’t you sin or Hell awaits. In those churches, you avoid sin and you do what is right so you can avoid eternal punishment, but we’re not that kind of a church. We believe, what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5: that Christ has saved us – that we’re justified – and it’s not our work that’s going to get us into heaven, it’s what Christ has done for us. But, without the fear of eternal punishment, what’s to keep us from returning to a life of sin? That’s the question Paul is trying to answer in Romans 6 – if salvation is all about grace, then why live a righteous life? Why be sanctified? Or, in other words, when you take out the fear part – it’s hard to get some people to do the right thing. Think about home inspections. We’ve been getting our house in order these past couple weeks. After having a bathroom renovated we had to have a final inspection, and one inspector came over and he gave me a punch list of 5 or 6 things he wanted done. I wanted to pass the inspection, so it didn’t matter what he asked for – out of a fear of failing I installed something called a Studer valve and a bunch of other stuff. A couple neighbors helped, I watched some do-it yourself videos, made 5 or 6 visits to Lowe’s, spent a handful of money and wore myself out for a day and a half to get all this stuff done. Well, the inspector came back after I finished, but it was a different inspector this time, and she walked into the bathroom, turned on the water in the sink, made sure the toilet flushed and we passed. She didn’t even look at my Studer valve. Now what is the point of doing right and living right if we’ve already passed the test? That’s what Paul’s critics wanted to know, so here’s what Paul told them and what he now tells us: while our eternity is secured by our Lord Jesus Christ – what hangs in the balance is how we will live today, so he asked: “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” One of our county’s finest teachers took me out to Puckett’s last week. He told me that parents call him often about grades. They want to know why their son is failing or why their daughter, who has a 99% doesn’t have 100%. This is frustrating he said, because people call about grades and why don’t they call worried about whether their children are learning? Will we learn anything without grades? Will we keep our bathrooms up to code without inspectors? Will we live righteous lives without fear or eternal punishment? That’s the question that Paul answers here in Romans chapter 6, and that’s what Sanctification is all about – ““How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” If all we want to do is pass the class – then we can sleep while the teacher is talking, but is school not more than grades? Is righteousness not more than just doing what you should? Is the burden of sin not a punishment in and of itself? So much of life is about trying to prove ourselves – and justification takes the struggle away – by what we’ve done and left undone, we’ve proven that we deserve condemnation. But in Christ’s saving death we’ve been redeemed and forgiven – now the struggle is over – by grace you and I have been saved and there’s only one reason to do what is right. Not because we should, not because there’s some great big judgmental Father in heaven looking down and wagging his finger. No. Do what is right because it’s worth it. Floss – not because you should, not because the dentist will get angry, but because teeth come in handy. Be honest – not because you’ll go to hell if you lie, but because those who live a lie are strangers even to themselves. Live in love – not because your mother raised you to be a good little boy or girl, but because hate is too great a burden to bare. This is sanctification – this act of living a righteous life, not because we can earn our way into heaven, Christ has already justified us, heaven is ours because of him – but live a righteous life because there is no better way to live and because there is no better way to thank our God for the gift of creating us and redeeming us than living by God’s great laws of love. You might remember that legendary question and answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: Q. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. To enjoy him. To enjoy the fruits of a sanctified life. To benefit from a healthy marriage. To rejoice in loving friendships. To live filled up by an abiding peace that guilt nor hardship can touch. We forget that God tells us to love one another, not because we should, but because there is no more miserable person than the one who only thinks of himself. You see – sin is its own enslavement. Sin is death enough on its own. Remember that. I just want to leave here knowing that you know two things: 1. That you are justified, not by anything that you’ve done, but by what God has done. 2. That you must grow in righteousness, you must live the sanctified life, because there is no other way to live. What Christ has done is given this gift of eternal life – you are justified; and by living according to his commands, we can have the benefit of that eternal life today. Be sanctified. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. In 6 and a half years, I’ve never said anything more important than that. And we do so, not out of a place of fear, wondering where we’ll go when we die. We do it because what else could we do? When you think of what God has done for us – how could we live any other way. And that’s what motivates us to do all great things – it’s love, not fear. I want to be a good father to my children, not out of obligation, but because I love them so much. I want to be a loving husband to Sara, not out of obligation, or even because she’s stronger than I am and could probably take me in a fight, but because when I think of her my heart fills up. And I have worked to be a good pastor, not just because you’ve paid me to, not just because I should, but because I love you, and I want everyone who I love to have a pastor who works to preach the truth and to stand by the bedside. It’s never been an obligation to baptize your children or to preach at your weddings. It’s never been a burden to speak at a funeral – it’s only ever been an honor. This is sanctification – living a righteous, loving life, not just because we should or someone told us to, but because love drives us to it. Amen.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Scripture Lessons: Exodus 19: 2-8a and Romans 5: 1-8 Sermon Title: Justified Preached on 6/18/17 The title of this morning’s sermon is “Justified” - a one word title that I chose deliberately because this is the subject of my sermon today – “justification” or to be “justified”. This is my next to last sermon here, and I’m taking this Sunday’s sermon and next Sunday’s sermon to preach about two essential Christian principles – justification and sanctification – so the sermon title today is “Justified.” The sermon title for next Sunday is “Sanctified.” Clear enough, right? Well, it’s clear enough if you know what being justified means. People use this word. Christians use this word. Maybe you’ve heard it in church or in a court of law, but of course, you know that people use words without knowing what they mean all the time – take for example the word “superfluous.” I used that word in a sermon two weeks ago but Sara told me that I used it incorrectly so I used it again last Sunday just to redeem myself. “Predestination” is a word that Presbyterians are supposed to know a little something about, but I’d rather not be put on the spot to talk about it, and “justification” is another theological term – this one of crucial importance – but you just about have to read a book on the subject to understand what it means. “Justified.” What do I mean when I say “justified”? Or, more importantly, what did Paul mean when he wrote the word “justified”? Our Second Scripture Lesson began: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” You can tell from just this passage that being justified is about Grace, and grace is one that we all know well. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Being justified is about standing before God, not as one condemned, but as one forgiven. Justification is about salvation, how it works, what it means, what it is that Jesus has done for you and me. Justification is the difference between this religion that we call Christianity and a religion that masquerades as Christianity in popular culture that I’ll call moralism. Moralism is all about being good, doing right, following the rules, and doing so enough of the time that you get to go to heaven. That sounds a lot like Christianity. In fact, I’d wager that if you asked most Christians to describe their religion, that’s about what they’d tell you. They might say, “I go to church to learn how to live, so that on judgement day I’m deemed worthy of entrance through those pearly gates”. But Christianity is not about worthy. Moralism is all about being good enough, and Christianity is about knowing that you’re not, you never were, and you never will be, but God loves you still. If moralism is about goodness, then Christianity is about grace. And if moralism is about being good enough to go to heaven, then Christianity is about knowing that heaven is ours not because we are good, but because we’re justified. Moralism is the religion of the school classroom, the courthouse, and the dentist – it’s all about whether you have listened well enough, followed the rules enough, and flossed your teeth enough. Moralism is about measuring up to certain standards – and I don’t mean that moralism is foreign to Christianity, but Christianity is more than that. Christianity goes beyond measuring up to provide you with this Good News: that if you know that you never have, and that you never will, rest in the assurance that what you can’t do for yourself, God has done for you. Speaking of measuring up, or trying to measure up, yesterday I had to drive down to Dalton, Georgia. You might know this – that for a Presbyterian minister to serve a church in a different region, a different Presbytery, he or she must be examined by the pastors and elders of that Presbytery and receive their approval – to see if he or she measures up. I’ve been through the process three times now. Once to begin ministry at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church outside Atlanta. A second time to begin ministry here, and now a third time I’ve been examined so that I can begin ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Marietta, GA. So, I’ve just been examined by a Presbytery who knew me when I was a child… and as a teenager. There, with the right to ask whatever question they wanted, were people who remember me when I was 7 or 8, disrupting Sunday School class. There were people there who knew me when I was 16 years old, driving around Marietta, GA in a car painted in black and white checkerboard and they wanted to know if I was up to the challenge of a new church. This is a hard question to answer, because I’ve never felt worthy of serving the church I serve now. Yesterday there was no pretending: I have not always been a pristine example of being good, nor am I now, nor will I ever be. Yesterday, I didn’t need to pretend that I could measure up to the standards that some put on the office of pastor, because they knew already that I couldn’t. Instead, I stood as another example of one who has been justified by the mighty work of God in Christ Jesus, for I am a sinner who has received God’s grace. The Pope said it best. When Pope Francis was asked to describe himself he said, “I am a sinner.” And knowing that we cannot do any better, what good is it to pretend to be innocent when we know we have failed to measure up? However, while we may have failed to measure up, we do not stand condemned. We stand justified. Justified by faith, because our Lord Jesus Christ, by his death on a cross, gives us peace with God. Through him we obtain access to grace, so if we boast, we cannot boast in ourselves, for what have we done, we can only boast in what Christ has done on our behalf. To use the words of Rev. Diane Givens Moffett, Senior Pastor at St. James Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina: “we cannot win God’s favor. We need only accept God’s grace.” And maybe that sounds easy, but it’s hard. Especially if you’re not used to it. Father’s Day is today, and maybe you have a father who helped you remember just how far you had to go before you measured up. Maybe you had a father you’re still trying to measure up to. You got a part in the play, but he wanted you to play football. The closest he came to saying he loved you was a handshake and a pat on the back. When you graduated High School, maybe you had a father who, instead of telling you how proud he was, asked you why you didn’t graduate with honors. Some of us think of God this way. If God is our Father in Heaven then surely, he remembers that summer when you wreaked his car and is still holding it against you. Preachers preach about that kind of God. I once believed in that kind of God, but there are many ways to be a father, and it’s important to know the kind of Father that our God is. A preacher named Ray Jones told it this way: he was walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. She told him again and again, “Daddy, just don’t make me cry. Don’t say anything that will make me cry at my wedding.” So he kept his mouth shut through the rehearsal dinner. Didn’t give a toast or anything, but as he walked her down the aisle he whispered to her, “I love you, and as long as you live you will never fully know the gift you are to your mother and me.” If God is our father in heaven, is God not this kind of father? The kind whose love for us, in just a few simple words, brings tears to our eyes? What does it mean to be justified – it means that whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, no matter how far you’ve gone – your heavenly father is waiting with open arms to welcome you home. To be justified is to remember that the God of the Exodus is still delivering his people from slavery out of profound and powerful love. To be justified is to know that the price of your imperfection has already been paid by a loving savior who laid down his life that you might know what a father’s love truly is. Now that doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. That doesn’t mean we should wallow around in sin and debauchery – but that’s next Sunday’s sermon – sanctification. For now, for today, remember this – you might not have been enough, you might never be enough, but God is, and God always will be, with grace enough to cover all our sin. That’s justification. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Monday, June 12, 2017
Scripture Lessons: Genesis 1: 1-4 and 2nd Corinthians 13: 11-13 Sermon Title: A wind from God Preached on 6/11/17 I sat down to talk with Mr. Rufus Ross this week. It was last Monday, and he, along with several our church members, lives at the Bridge on James Campbell Boulevard. He told me that he’s said many goodbyes, that he’s been saying goodbye to people he loved for a long time. He grew up in Mt. Pleasant, but was sent to school at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, and while Columbia students can go to school up in Franklin today, coming home to sleep in their own bed every night, back when Rufus was in school it was a long way from Mt. Pleasant to the Battle Ground Academy. And more than that, then, students were only allowed to go home the two weekends before Christmas and the two weekends after Christmas. So, by the time he was 16, Rufus knew that as he said his goodbyes at the beginning of the school year, he was probably saying goodbye to someone, though he knew not whom, who he would not see again. You think about how many times that was true for Rufus. It was true during his time at Battle Ground Academy. Last Thursday was the anniversary of the 58th flight he was on in World War II. 58 times he boarded a plane not knowing which of his friends he’d see again, not knowing if he’d even be landing the plane he boarded. He was a bombardier for a medium sized bomber, a three-man plane, but he trained with a different group of men. For some logistical reason, he was reassigned after training with this group, all of whom died before the war was over, and had he not been reassigned he would have died along with them. You might know already, that in the course of his life he had to say goodbye to two wives and a son, and last Monday, knowing that we’d talk again, knowing that we’d write, knowing that this was not the most final goodbye he’d ever said, still Rufus told me goodbye, and as he did he told me that he knew that God would go with me and that God would not be far from him. Paul was saying the same here in 2nd Corinthians. He was telling this group of Christians, “farewell” and “God will be with you just as God will be with me.” This was a church that Paul loved and that he worried over. This was a church that he had to write to, some scholars say more than any of the others because of their various crises of faith and issues of division, and as he said goodbye here in the final chapter of 2nd Corinthians he gave them this great Trinitarian blessing so fitting for Trinity Sunday today: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” We say “farewell” again and again – but let us always do so as Christians, boldly standing on the promises that we always stand on: -the promise that the Holy Spirit who swept over the face of the water of Creation has been with us since the beginning and will be with us to the end. -the promise of God the Father who breathed life into every one of us, and who watches over us like the lambs of His flock. -and the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose words we remember at every baptism that our church has ever been blessed to witness – “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It’s easy for me to believe that today. Or it’s easier for me to believe that than it was a couple days ago. For one thing, Rufus reminded me of it, but for another thing – I picked this 2nd Scripture Lesson where Paul says “farewell” more than two months ago when I had no idea that we were going anywhere. Now, I am beginning to see what God could see all along, and it’s true what Blair Hickman says, you can all vote for me to stay here forever if you want, but if you let me go you will see what you and I have always known: that this church is faithful, powerful, and filled up with the Holy Spirit because God is here – not because Joe is here – and God is faithful still. Of course, saying goodbye is hard, but Paul didn’t spend any ink on celebrating himself – he used this “farewell” for some final, crucial advice. As he said “farewell” to his brothers and sisters in Corinth he told them again what he’d been telling them for years: “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace. Greet one another with a holy kiss [and know that] all the saints greet you.” “Put things in order,” he told them. It is amazing how knowing that your time together is limited helps to put things in order. When you must say “farewell” you only do and say what counts. No more talk about the weather, no more hurtful words. You say what matters and you remember what is beautiful and true. “Put things in order” Paul wrote, because even when we aren’t saying goodbye some things still matter more than others and it’s the perspective of limited time that makes priorities clear. Paul charged the church to put what matters most at the top – and I charge you to do the same – to put your faith at the top, -because God isn’t who you pay attention to after you’ve satisfied all your other social obligations. -church isn’t the place you go when there’s nothing else to do. -it’s not right to pray once you’re done with your to-do list – you pray first, you give yourself to God the first fruits of your labor, not whatever’s left over, for God doesn’t finally get around to you once he’s free, God laid down his life for you and for me. But for us, there’s soccer. Then there’s dance. Then there’s a weekend at the river, so it’s difficult to put things in order, but if your time at this church were limited, if you were the one about to say “farewell” to this place, then you would see that gifts like this place are precious. Too precious to get lost in the shuffle of a busy life. Do you remember the Sunday when Parkes Hickman ran down the aisle with a bowl full of change? At the risk of being superfluous by mentioning the Hickman family a second time, I’ll remind you of that 5th Sunday when little Parkes Hickman, only 2 or 3 at the time, ran proudly with her bowl of change down the aisle a little too quickly. She tripped and fell and the change rolled all over the sanctuary floor. I’m sure she had some hard words for such a crisis as this: “Ham sandwiches” she might have said, but had you been watching from up here you would have seen this whole side of the church stand to help her find each coin, because picking up the pieces is just what this church does. “Put things in order.” God (first), family (second), then everything else. Because when life falls apart, that boss you’ve been trying to impress won’t be there to help you put life back together. “Put things in order.” Because death, divorce, cancer, war, college, something is on the way reminding us again that change is here and it’s times when we must say “farewell” that we finally see our gifts for what they are. Put things in order. For we all talk too much about getting something out of a worship service, and to quote Erin Hedrick, when we talk that way we have things out of order, we have things backward in fact, for its Christ like to ask what we might put into worship rather than what we might get out of it for the Lord didn’t come to earth thinking he might get something out of his human existence – no – we look to the communion table and are reminded that he came to this earth so that he might pour himself out for us and for our salvation. When we have all the time in the world we can squabble about what time we gather to worship and what hymns we should sing, but when our days are numbered we see worshiping together for the precious gift that it is. And when we live, offering our very lives to the Lord, we learn what it means to truly live. “Live in peace,” Paul said. And “greet one another with a holy kiss,” because as the old hymn goes: “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” but what witness is a handshake and a nod, so Paul called for a holy kiss. You have to think of David Locke when you think of getting a kiss in church. Not long-ago Mr. David Locke, another of our World War II veterans, another member of a bomber crew, I overheard him telling a friend, “I can’t hear what Joe says anymore. I come to church for the hugs.” In a culture of isolation, where people are lonely, hurting, and don’t know where to go for community – be a bright light of hospitality and love. Be the bright light of hospitality and love that you have been to me and my family to everyone who walks through your doors. Saying “farewell” to you is saying “farewell” to people who adopted our girls as their grandchildren. Saying “farewell” to you is saying “farewell” to a community we have been knit right into. Saying “farewell” to you is saying “farewell” to a piece of our heart and soul, so do not stray from who you are and what you can do for each other and for the world. Amen.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Scripture Lessons: Numbers 11: 24-30 and Acts 2: 1-21 Sermon title: Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets Preached on June 4, 2017 Last week Bojangles opened in Columbia. The fried chicken establishment officially opened on May 30th. I didn’t make it by until the day after. I wanted to avoid the opening day crowd, but the line was still pretty long the next day when I just couldn’t stay away any longer. Now you might say that another fried chicken establishment in Columbia is superfluous, but this is different – this is Bojangles! I feel strongly about this. The chicken is that good, but my first visit was frustrating. The line was still pretty long, and what irritated me is that even after standing in the line, watching people order again and again – still, the two people right in front of me stepped up to the register and asked the lady, “So what’s good here?” It blew my mind. Not only does this question not make any sense – I mean, it’s a fried chicken restaurant – the fried chicken is good here. The other thing is that they had all this time in the line to figure out their order – but still, I’ve known what I was going to order since I heard that Bojangles was coming to Columbia two months ago. As soon as I got word that Bojangles would be coming to town I knew that the first time I had the chance I’d be ordering a large sweet tea and a chicken biscuit, but this is the human condition – sometimes we just don’t know what to say. Sometimes – when we should speak – we hesitate. Sometimes we freeze up. How many of your regrets have to do with the failure to speak some words like: “Would you go out with me?” “I love you too.” Or, “I’m so excited that you’re pregnant.” But instead, momentous occasions, momentous opportunities, were met either with silence or meaningless words or sounds like, “uh, uh, uh.” Not Peter though. We’ve heard about all the times when Peter waffled – when he tried to walk on water but sank and the time when he could have claimed Jesus as the friend and savior that he was but denied him instead. That’s not what happened on Pentecost. On Pentecost Peter spoke. He walked right up to that register and he ordered. You heard the story from the book of Acts: The Holy Spirit came just as Jesus promised. The Disciples spoke in languages they should not have known. All these people were trying to figure out what was going on. “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” This account from the Book of Acts reminds us that if no one speaks sometimes there’s silence or confusion. Sometimes rumors get started, but more than that, in this instance, one of God’s greatest miracles could have gotten lost without someone to help the crowd understand what this miracle means. Peter’s words are crucial. “Standing with the eleven, [he] raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel – [this is the sign that God is pouring out the Holy Spirit on all people.]” That’s a big difference. When one guy says they’re drunk, another guy says it’s a miracle. So much hinges on who speaks and what is said; how this moment is explained. And thanks be to God Peter didn’t hesitate. He spoke. Now, if only all the Lord’s people were prophets. People like me, preachers – we talk a lot about church attendance. Numbers. Is the church growing or losing ground or what’s going on? More and more people wonder why folks don’t go to church like they once did. Is it that the culture has changed? Is it that the church has lost its relevance? What’s happening? I have an answer: God still provides, but at some point or another we went silent. I remember it well this one morning at the last church I served outside Atlanta. Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. We had a men’s breakfast one morning and the organizer, a guy named Corey Duncan, he says, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had even more people come to this breakfast? Can’t you all think of someone at work or in your neighborhood who would get a lot out of something like this?” We all agreed, so he went on saying, “Well, I know we’re Presbyterians so I won’t ask you to invite someone to the next men’s breakfast. I just challenge you to tell someone about it.” That’s it. I just challenge you to speak. That doesn’t sound so bad – just tell someone what’s going on here – just tell someone about what you see. Here we are in Pleasantville, TN. Do you know how many people signed up to come today? Nearly 200. That’s around 100 more than last year. Why did that happen? There are plenty of explanations, but when you look around this place, who wouldn’t want to spend a day here? So, if you want the number to grow beyond 200 next year, tell someone about it. Today we’ll be confirming 9 fine young men and women. For the past year they’ve dedicated themselves to learning about their faith and what this church is and what we stand for. Wouldn’t it be a pity if all of this, if all of who we are, if the gift of this congregation were the best kept secret in Maury County? I’m not asking you today to go knock on doors (it would be great if you did) but all I’m saying is that you know someone who would benefit from just this kind of miracle – the miracle of what God does here, but a miracle without an explanation gets misunderstood or dismissed. Peter spoke. He had to. And it’s hard to believe that a miracle as profound and magnificent as disciples speaking in languages they didn’t know proclaiming the mighty works of God to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but miracles go unspoken and misunderstood all the time. You can change that. You can speak. You can speak words of hope in the midst of hopelessness. You can speak words of faith in a culture of fear. You can speak words of righteousness in our world of cultural relativism. You can speak, so tell someone about this day and about this place. Tell someone about what God has done in your life, because I’m sure they need something this good just as much as you and I do. Amen.