The following is the first part of the sermon I preached today, Palm Sunday 2021, at Cooks Point United Methodist Church. Maybe it will resonate with you…maybe there is something about your story that you are ready to change. God bless…
Things to Come
FOCUS: We begin a final journey with Jesus, but find it is not the end, but the beginning of a walk with the Resurrected Lord.
CHANGING YOUR STORY
Last week we talked about changing our story, taking the promises of God and stepping into them, claiming them as our story, too. Sometimes we change the hand we’ve been dealt — like when we grow up in an abusive or drug-filled home and decide that this generational curse stops with us. Or maybe we decide to change the way we think, and decide we will serve in the kingdom of God and not in the kingdom of this world. We can be transformed by the renewing of our mind rather than be conformed to the world. (Romans 12: 1-2)
This is a special day for me, and I’m glad to be here with all of you here and for those who might hear this later. Early one morning in 1981, I went to church for the first time as a volunteer, as a seeker, as someone who wanted to know more about what was going on. I grew up in the church, but I hadn’t been part of a church since I left home. I was single, and living in an apartment with a roommate.
One night we had some folks over for dinner and I cooked and we set the table and it looked nice.
My roommate Will said something like: ‘This looks great! We should say grace over this! Frank, why don’t you pray before we start?”
I was surprised. We didn’t do that. And I looked at him and said no.
“Okay, I will, then,” he said.
I didn’t hear what he said or much of anything for a while. I was a little shocked that I had such a strong reaction to being asked to pray. I didn’t know where I stood with God. I told people I was “agnostic”, but I didn’t really know what that meant and it sounded kinda cool and I liked that because I was a young man in my mid 20s.
I realized I didn’t know what I believed in, and I wasn’t going to make pretend about something that important. So that started me on a journey.
Several months later I went to an early morning service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Pasadena – early enough so that I would not run into anyone I knew – and began a pilgrimage which is still ongoing.
It was Palm Sunday. Kids came in waving palm branches and there were hymns I’d never heard and there was a festiveness, a celebration, that I wasn’t used to from my church experiences.
I’ve told this story before elsewhere, and I’ll probably tell it again, because good stories, faith forming stories, life-changing stories, are worth telling and hearing again and again. Coming to church on that Palm Sunday 40 years ago began a process that changed my life and the lives of others, and maybe that can happen for somebody here today. So we tell these stories of the Gospel, we tell these stories of Jesus, and we tell stories of lives changed knowing that God is still in the life-changing business, and gives us a chance to join in the parade.