“One Thing I Have Asked of the Lord” January 29, 2023
“One Thing I Have I asked of the Lord”
Psalm Around 15 & Psalm 27 1, 4-9
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Of all the words in the English language that have always given me fits, I’d have to say that the word ‘irony’ will always be at the top of my list. I mean, just think about it: this thing that we call irony. Even the word itself is kind of dull and uninspired. I-ron-ee. I mean we have some great words in the English language: words like perspicacious or serendipity. But irony? I don’t know, but it seems like a rather blah word for something we use all the time. For example, if we were to find ourselves standing in the pouring rain and shouting, “What a beautiful day!” that would be considered irony. Another example, I suppose, could be found in the old Stephen foster song ”O Susanna.” Remember that one?
“Oh it rained so hard the day I left
the weather, it was dry.
the sun was so hot I froze to death .
Susanna don’t you cry.”
Another type of irony is called ‘situational irony. This is the type of irony where the opposite of what is expected happens which can lead to some funny or even tragic circumstances; and that’s what has hit me today: situational irony.
You see, I’ve known this day was coming for a while now. Due to health concerns and for the betterment of our church, I have agreed to step down as your pastor here at Sheridan United Methodist church – a position I have held for well over 10 years, and yes, the time has flown by.
I can only hope that the time I have spent with you all has been as rich and meaningful for you as it has been for me.
We’ve certainly come a long way since I first showed up. I can’t forget that day when Steve Ross drove me to Sheridan to look at what was left of the old church after the fire. All that I saw was a blackened foundation in the middle of a big empty lot. That foundation with its burnt bricks and cracked cement didn’t inspire me with a whole lot of confidence. it was only later that I discovered the real foundation of this church and that foundation is nothing more than the incredible members of this congregation.
So, as I was thinking about what to say to you on this day, I knew that I had best be careful. Because I knew I may never have the chance To address this congregation again anytime soon, I felt a certain sense of urgency; That this is important. So naturally, I got to digging around to find words that would be words of wisdom: wise words that would hopefully leave a lasting impression. In the process of my digging, I chanced across this little gem from John Wesley. who said,” it is dangerous to depart from scripture. Most of the controversies which have disturbed the church have arisen from people’s wanting to be wise above what is written, not contented with what God has plainly revealed there.”
‘people wanting to be wise above what is written, not contented with what God has plainly revealed there’ and you know, the more I thought about Wesley’s statement, the more I realized that a collection of wise old sayings and quotable quotes was not gonna cut it today. of all days. and So it was that I turned to scripture and that’s when I was slapped in the face with a dose of situational irony that is actually somewhat hilarious.
you see, as I was thinking back on our time together, I knew I had better do everything in my power to keep from getting too emotional. the last thing I wanted was to find myself getting all choked up here today.
With that being said, all I can think is that it had to be the fickle finger of fate that directed me to the words of Paul when he said (1 Cor 1:21)
“21 In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching.” Now, I have read this passage before and I may have even preached upon it once or twice, but the idea of the foolishness of preaching has never brought to me a sense of peace and contentment the way that it does now. And in large part, I’d have to say that I have the members of Sheridan United Methodist Church to thank for that.
What I mean is, when I first showed up At Sheridan I didn’t have years of experience under my belt. I didn’t have a seminary education or diplomas to hang on the wall. but you welcomed me with open arms And because of that we have grown in faith, grown in community. and we have grown in our love of Jesus Christ. We have been church in the best sense of the word, and for that I am forever grateful.
But As for the foolishness of preaching, this is where I thank you most of all. I thank you for allowing me, for encouraging me, to bring the word of God to this house through my heart and from my gut, and not from an academic point of view.
I’m a man who owes everything to the saving grace of our God and I have always viewed scripture through that lens. I guess that’s why I get such a kick out of studying the gospel. It never disappoints and is always full of surprises. Most of all, it always speaks to me personally. I can’t help but believe that there are many amongst us who have shared the same. So, thank you all for walking on this journey with me and for sharing it with each other. Our journey of faith is, after all, the foundation that the church is built upon.
John Wesley always said, “Give me a preacher who is on fire for the Lord and people will come from miles around to watch him burn.” thank you for giving me the space to navigate through the hot and the cold of interpreting as best I could the magnificent word of God. the foolishness of preaching? Sure, why not? I have yet to meet a person in love who is not a bit of a goofball.
The other scripture that spoke to me for today was from last week’s Psalm reading; the 27th Psalm, a Psalm of David that is custom made for this day, starting with verse one which reads,
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”
This is the one lasting hope I hold for this congregation: That the one thing you would ask of the Lord, the one thing you will seek after is to dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of our lives. This house is about to go through some changes, but it is still God’s house. Come to think of it, this house has went through many changes in the past, But it is And always will be the house of the Lord. We celebrate that every time we walk through the doors of this sacred space. We celebrate that every time we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and inquire in his temple.
A few years back, Margie and I were having dinner at some friend’s house in Hillsboro. They were long term members of First Methodist church in Portland and he started telling about their previous pastor.
“Oh, he was wonderful,” he said, “but it got to the point where we had heard all his stories.” Now, I’m not saying that I am all out of stories to tell.
My wild and impetuous youth takes care of that. What I am saying is that you are lucky to have someone like Kevin Seckel to lead you in worship in the coming days. Kevin and his wife Carol have preached in mission all around the world from Eastern Europe to the state of Alaska. He has a true pastor’s heart and you can bet that he won’t run out of stories anytime soon.
So, with that being said, let me say that I am happy for you. Also, I am confident that you will welcome him with the same warmth and fellowship that you have welcomed me.
“one thing have I asked of the Lord. one thing will I seek after. That I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life.”
I want to say that I will miss you all and I will miss our time together. I’ll miss the fellowship, and from one who loves to eat , I’ll miss the great food. But most of all I will miss the true foundation of this church and that is its congregation.
I know that I promised not to get all gushy today But I do love you all and will always treasure our time together. At the same time, I’m excited to see what the future might bring for this particular House of the Lord. Thank you for the blessing you have been throughout this chapter of my life. In particular, thank you for the love and support you have shown To Margie and I during these last few months of trial and uncertainty. We most certainly would have struggled going it alone.
And last of all, thank you for your faithfulness and your abiding love In the Lord our God. You are in my heart, you are in my prayers, And the one thing have I asked of our Lord is that you might someday know what a blessing you have been to me; the greatest blessing perhaps, has been your constant presence reminding me that God is pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching.
Amen and Shalom