A new pastor stepped into the pulpit at Passive United Methodist Church on July 1st, and preached her first sermon. The people loved it. It laid out the gospel clearly. It had humor. It was easy to understand. And in closing, it called on the people to do the work that is necessary to fulfill that church’s purpose statement to “introduce people to Jesus Christ, help them become faithful followers of Him, and equip them to share His love with others.” On July 8th, the pastor stepped into the pulpit at Passive United Methodist Church, and preached the exact same sermon. While many people enjoyed the message because it was just as good the second time around, a few people complained that the pastor had not written a new sermon. Some people defended her, saying “well maybe she’s still unpacking. Giver her time to settle in.”
More than a century ago, Samuel Foss wrote the poem you just heard. It is titled The Calf Path, and it talks about how unaware we can be about the manner in which we journey through life. This is because it is easy to think we are moving along through our own decision-making when we actually may be meandering aimlessly along paths others have created before us. This can happen because our sense of direction – especially spiritual direction – is flawed. It has been infected with a spiritual virus called sin, and it can (like Foss’s calf path) cause us to wander to and fro, and back and forth, rather than taking us in the direction God would have us go. That is the bad news. The good news is that God offers to show us the best way to get to our destination. And God offers to help us not only complete the journey, but also to travel it in such a way that we experience joy, peace, and contentment along the way.
Guest Speaker: Julie Eshbaugh
I know it’s been a long time since I spoke in front of this congregation, because the last time I didn’t have to wear my reading glasses! And I am a little nervous today, but not because I’m in front of you. I always feel comfortable speaking to my own church, because I love and trust my church family, and I know you’re rooting for me to do well. But when the pastor asked me to speak today—Labor Day weekend—he asked me to share a testimony message, and to talk a bit about how I’ve been gifted to work for God. He specifically mentioned that I could talk about my work with the senior high school Sunday School class, and also my work writing novels for young adults.
Now if you know me, you know I love to talk. No one ever said I was uncomfortable speaking. But I am less comfortable talking about myself. I like to keep myself to myself. However, I was very excited about the topic of individual callings and individual giftedness, and how we can use our gifts for God’s kingdom. How can our labor give glory to God? This is something I spend a lot of time thinking about, and I do have a personal testimony of how God has taught me how to discern my gifts and use them to bring him glory, and I’ll get to that story in a minute.
There was a small cemetery in the center of a city. To get from one spot to another, people would often cut through the cemetery. Normally, this was not a problem. But at night, the cemetery became extremely creepy. As a result, people would go the long way around after the sun went down. One night, as a woman got to the edge of the cemetery, two men ran up to her. “Can we walk with you through the cemetery?” they pleaded, “We were going to cut through on our own, but got creeped out.” “No problem,” the woman replied, “when I was alive I was also creeped out to walk through here at night.” In response to that statement, the two men raced through the cemetery faster than Olympic track stars.
I recently received a reply to a Facebook post from someone who said they had learned more about me through my online posts than through what I say here in church. Which, for good and bad, is the case for everyone in this room. If you post things online, there’s a good chance the people sitting next to you know where you like to eat, what you like to eat, where you last went on vacation, what cute thing your pet did this past week, and what you’re happy or sad about.