Some time back I made the decision to focus on Epiphany today in worship. We moved the wise men from the sound desk to the nativity scene, and the focus was talk about how we need to shine with Christ's love. I had the basic outline weeks ago, but as I sat to write the sermon I kept hitting roadblocks. I went looking for illustrations for one of the points I wanted to make, and what should have been easy to find was proving very difficult to find.
The reason for my struggles became clear yesterday as I watched the story in Arizona unfold. I needed to address what is going on in our nation. The struggle then became how to address from the Scripture without my political leanings becoming an issue.
As I prayed and struggled, it finally fell into place, and I went to bed sometime after 1:30 this morning. This morning I got up and did some mild tweaking. I put together a PowerPoint that was very basic without many slides. I stood up in this congregation that is still getting to know me and talked about how fear is destroying us. I talked about the importance of listening to and respecting those with different view points. I talked about how we needed to stop labelling people in order to dismiss them. I talked about how we all loved our country, and we needed to focus on what we have in common, not on our differences. I talked about how as Christians, we need to model a different way, a better way. I challenged people to find ways to shine, and offered specific examples, encouraging them to sign up for various activities after worship.
The congregation was very attentive. Super attentive. Earlier this week I had picked Shine, Jesus, Shine, as the hymn we would sing immediately after the sermon. It was amazing how well it fit with my sermon. We closed with This Little Light of Mine, and people immediately lined up to sign up for the various activities. People were very appreciative. I am grateful that I hadn't forced the sermon earlier in the week, and was able to focus completely on yesterday's events today. I am grateful for the way the Holy Spirit worked through me today-- I was preaching to myself as much as anyone. I just wish the Holy Spirit would inspire me a little earlier in the week. I really need more than 4 1/2 hours of sleep on Saturday night.