Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Farewell Sermons: How far to go?

I am finally back from a week off of church work (as long as packing does not count) and the countdown has started for moving day. Because of the senior minister here having surgery I will have the pleasure of preaching three out of the four Sunday in June. I am looking forward to those sermons but I am also wondering how far to go.

In a previous post I shared that I have found the text for my final sermon but I wonder what to say in the other two as well. I have chosen lectionary texts for the next two Sundays (John 16:12-15 for this Sunday and Galatians 1:11-24 for the 10th). There is a wonderful theme of guidance and transformation in these two Scriptures. They will fit great into a farewell series of sermons.

My main questions though is, how far does a moving pastor go in telling the truth from the pulpit. I am a huge advocate of being able to speak what the Lord has laid on your heart from the pulpit. The UMC system is great in that we can preach God's word and not have to worry about our jobs being on the line. Yet, would the harsh truth be seen in the wrong context if presented at this time?

In the past I have left a church (a small church in England where I was placed for a year) with a harsh sermon. I critiqued their struggles to get along with one another. I felt God calling me to give that sermon and to deliver the harsh reality that they need to figure out how to live together if that church was going to live. Yet I felt a bad taste in my mouth.

How much truth do you share when leaving? How do you preach the good news, say sincere thanks to those you love, encourage, inspire, love and shed light on things that need to be shed upon? How do you do all that and come out not looking like an ass? How do you do that and it be an effective minister of God?

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