Service of Installation of Rev. Amy Morgan
This post contains the text of the sermon, charge to the pastor, and charge to the congregation from the
Service of Installation for Rev. Amy Morgan
on Sunday, October 15 at 4p.m.Meditation Upon the Installation
of the Rev. Amy Morgan
October 15, 2017
Ernest F. Krug, III
Luke 10: 38-42
It is a great honor to have been asked by Amy to preach her installation sermon. I first came to know Amy, her husband Jason, and son Dean when she came to the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Michigan as Associate Pastor some ten or eleven years ago. I was serving there as Parish Associate. In fact, during my 46 years of ordained ministry I have always served as Parish Associate at a variety of churches and have never been an installed pastor—making me obviously the best person to preach an installation sermon! There is more to the story, but suffice it to say that I am also a pediatrician, now retired from medical practice, and had a unique ministry. I tell you this much about myself only to make the point that being a parish associate, that is, doing pastoral ministry in support of an installed pastor has its advantages. You get to do the fun things: preaching on occasion, teaching, visiting church members needing pastoral care, some weddings and funerals—whatever is helpful to the installed pastor. You don’t get the critical emails from the congregation, you rarely serve on any committees, and you don’t even have to attend session meetings if you don’t want to. And, of course, the Parish Associate is part-time because he or she has a regular, full-time day job—unless retired. I have to admit that being a parish associate was and is attractive to me because I was aware how difficult full-time parish ministry is. The church can be a place of love and openness, and it can be a place of close-minded routine where innovation is frowned upon. I have the impression that the First United Presbyterian Church of Loveland is more the former than the latter, and that is a good thing because Amy Morgan is bursting with creativity in the name of Jesus Christ. Pastoral ministry is, indeed, a journey with Christ, and all church members are on that journey together.
This brings me to the text Amy selected for my sermon today. Luke 10: 38-42, the account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary, is found only in Luke’s gospel, and it is paired—intentionally most believe—with the story of the Good Samaritan. You are all very familiar with the story of the man robbed and beaten and left to die on the side of the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Two religious leaders—first a priest and then a Levite, for which you could substitute a minister and a ruling elder in our own time—pass by on the other side, not wanting to get involved or get contaminated by the bloodied victim. A Samaritan comes along—you could substitute today a Muslim traveler not welcome in the region—stops, renders aid, transports the injured man to a place where he can be nursed back to health, and pays all the man’s expenses for recovery. You will recall that Jesus tells this story in response to a lawyer asking Jesus what God requires of him in order to inherit eternal life. He knows he should love God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength and his neighbor as himself, but he isn’t quite sure who his neighbor is. Jesus recognizes what this man lacks. He tells the story to focus the lawyer on behavior that is merciful, not on a person’s status in the community. It is a story about the meaning of loving one’s neighbor, and Jesus asks the lawyer to add to his repertoire acts of mercy for those outside his circle.
But doing acts of love and mercy is actually not sufficient, as we learn from the account of Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary’s home. Martha is the consummate host, and she responds to Jesus’ presence with an outpouring of hospitality. She has to get a fire going, purchase food in the market, set the table—her labor in attending to these tasks is described using the Greek word, diakonia, from which our word diaconate comes. I know deacons like Martha in the church. They keep the church running—preparing and serving communion, holding receptions after funerals, taking flower arrangements to people in hospital or confined to home, manning food cupboards, and numerous other acts of mercy. Martha is a model we can all admire. But, like all of us, she lacks something. She is distracted by her many tasks and asks Jesus to tell her sister Mary, who has been sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to his words and no doubt amazed at how his words are transforming her life, to get to work and help in the kitchen. We can identify with that. How often have we asked a son or daughter: Will you please get off your duff, put down your smartphone and help me! Jesus loves Martha, but he doesn’t buy what she is selling. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” In essence, Jesus is saying to Martha, “Keep in balance, Martha, and don’t begrudge Mary opportunities to hear and reflect upon the Word of God.” And Jesus’ comment is a big deal because Mary was acting way outside the bounds of normal behavior for a Jewish woman in Biblical times. She was supposed to be in the kitchen, not sitting like a Jewish male at the feet of the rabbi. So to Mary Jesus is saying, “Don’t let society’s restrictions upon you keep you from being my disciple and hearing my words of eternal life.” For the expert in the law, it was reliance on rules and law that restricted his recognition of persons in need. For Martha, it was the distractions of service requirements that blinded her to the amazing liberation of a sister who wished to be a disciple like the men sitting at Jesus’ feet.
Jesus tells the lawyer who wants to inherit eternal life to go and perform acts of mercy like the Good Samaritan, who showed mercy to a person for whom he had no obligation and probably left in the care of others before the beaten man was able even to thank him. That commitment to showing love and mercy to any person needing it was what the lawyer in the story lacked. Martha lacked the ability to see beyond social norms to appreciate what her sister Mary was experiencing in Jesus’ presence. The story is a wake-up call to each one of us to consider what restrictions we place on ourselves and others that keep us and them from being transformed by Jesus’ presence in our lives and in their lives. Jesus wants us to do the works of love beyond any boundaries or social conventions, and he wants us to place a priority on hearing the word of God, so that our doing is a response to love, not to the narrow expectations of ruling forces in the world around us.
Martha and Mary are both good persons. Both women are loved by Jesus. Both, we learn in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, recognized in Jesus the presence of God. Martha teaches us that we can easily let distraction by tasks we feel obligated to perform get in the way of “standing down” to listen when the kingdom of God comes near. Jesus had no idea how distracting life in this world would become with constant text messages, emails, and postings on Facebook with all the social obligations these generate. So consider the distractions in this church that keep you from appreciating the transforming presence of the kingdom of God when it comes near. Having been appointed a trustee of my presbytery—the Presbytery of Genesee Valley—I have experienced first-hand the financial distractions like a new roof or boiler in the life of a church, particularly when membership is falling. But even serving others in ministries of social justice and mission must be balanced by a disciplined attention to God’s word in Scripture and God’s presence in those we serve. Take time to hear God’s word and reflect upon it, particularly when you are surrounded by and distracted by the noise of the world, even the noise of your own pain. Listening for God’s word for us can put life in proper perspective, give us imagination for discipleship, and provide energy for service. Martha had lost perspective. She had forgotten the true reason for her work—and this happens to all of us from time to time. And we must not forget the value in sometimes ignoring social rules and crossing boundaries in order to be the person God calls you to be as an agent of God’s love in the world.
Amy Morgan comes into this community of faith with fresh eyes and fresh ideas, and you have had the opportunity to experience that in your initial engagement with her in ministry here. My wife Sarah and I were personally impressed by her ability to connect with and mentor youth, particularly when they were going through very stressful periods in their lives. She has also done wonderful work in interfaith dialogue. As the honeymoon period of her ministry ends, and you are tempted to say, “We haven’t done it this way before” or “I don’t like this or that,” stand down, before you send that critical email, and consider how God’s kingdom has come near through her ministry with you. Ask the question, “Do we see in Jesus what we need to see, here and now, so that the life of this congregation is transformed by Christ’s love. Remember how Martha misunderstood Mary. Strive not to misunderstand Amy or any other disciple of Jesus Christ in your midst. The kingdom of God often comes near when you least expect it. Mary was able to see the reflection of God in Jesus. We, too, need to practice seeing the reflection of Jesus around us and let it transform our living. Risk being misunderstood in order to attend to the truth and love each other as God has loved you. Let us all go out today with fresh spiritual eyes to perceive the light and life that comes only from God through our Lord, Jesus Christ. We may then discern with renewed energy and vision what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind; and our neighbor as ourselves. Amen.
CHARGE TO THE PASTOR - Rev. Judy Wrought
Since receiving the invitation to give the “Charge to the pastor,” what to say has been heavy on my heart. After a period of agony, when the Holy Spirit seemed to be on assignment to help someone else, I thought perhaps there is something in the Bible that will speak to this situation. I went on a quest and this is what I found.
The words don’t come from Jesus. Actually, they are from the book of Ezekiel. It is in the Old Testament – right after the book of Lamentations, that book that admonishes us to cry out to God in the midst of our anguish and destress when what God requires of us seems strange and difficult. You might keep that in mind.
But back to Ezekiel. The second chapter begins with the voice of God addressing the prophet.
Listen for the word of God.
“He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.
2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me.
3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.
4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord GOD."
5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.
6 And you, O mortal, do not be afraid of them, and do not be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words, and do not be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.
7 You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house.
8 But you, mortal, hear what I say to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.
9 I looked, and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it.
10 He spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.
2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
3 He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.”
The Word of the Lord. May it be so.
Amy, you have been with us long enough to know that we are a rebellious people. Sometimes our own desires, hopes, fears and concerns keep us from hearing and seeing God’s clear call to us. Your first and foremost job is to eat the scroll of God, to chew it well and then spew it out upon us. We do desire to know what God desires of us. Let that scroll (hold up the Bible) be your text as you preach to us. Even when the message is filled with challenge and expectation; even when it calls us to change course and find a new way; even when it is not what we want to hear……sister preach it to us. First and foremost, bring to us the word of God as God has given you to understand it.
We are a rebellious people. Further along in the book of Ezekiel, God acknowledges scattering those rebellious people among the countries. Then God brings the people back together and proclaims in chapter 11:19-20.
I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God.
We may be rebellious people but God has removed our hearts of stone. Being loved and forgiven, empowers us to hear and respond to the challenging word of God.
Expect much from us. Expect love and acceptance toward you, toward each other and to all those we touch in our outreach as we live our lives in the world. Don’t give up on us; continue to expect that we will act lovingly. Call us to be our best selves. God has loved us. In gratitude help us to live a life of love for others. Show us the way.
I charge you as you lead the congregation to do two things:
· Bring to us the challenging word of God and
· Constantly remind us that we are loved by God and called to be the bearers of God love in the world.
To fulfill that charge, you must:
· Take time to lament when these rebellious people have their fingers in their ears.
· Take time to renew your spirit by letting the Spirit of God surround you, comfort you, love you. And let this congregation help to renew you with their love.
· Take time to be with your family. Delight in your husband and son. Make time to play with them. We’ll still be here for you to pastor when you come back from that respite.
I charge you to lead this congregation with courage and insight speaking God’s word to us.
I charge you to share the love of God with this community of faith and let them embrace you with their love.
Amy isn’t your Jesus…don’t treat her that way. She’s not your Jesus but she just might be your rainbow…a visible reminder that there will be storms…you are in the boat…and together…you will not die.
Charge to the Congregation - Rev. Joseph Moore
Judy just called you rebellious…She called you scorpions…and she charged Amy with vomiting the word of God all over you. I’m not going to do any of that. I’m not actually going to preach a sermon to you.
…I recall a seminary professor speaking of services like this one…sermons are like martini’s. One is fine, two can start to be a problem, and no good comes after that… So this charge will not be a sermon.
But it is a brief call…a charge as someone who has walked with your session over the last year or so…a charge… for you to remember.
As Amy gets settled in so that she can do the disruptive work that God calls all of us to do…I want to ask you to remember. Remember, don’t dwell, but remember the last several years. Heaven knows these weren’t the easiest years of transition…
None of us would ever wish some of the struggles that you’ve survived on any congregation…but I do think you should remember them.
Remember them, because you’ve not only called a fantastic preacher and a faithful pastor, remember the struggles, because you can’t remember them without being reminded that you survived them.
You came out on the other side stronger, more nimble, more faithful, more sure of who and whose you are.
I’m reminded of the former stated clerk of our denomination who summarized that wonderful story of Jesus calming the storm…you know the one that appears in both Matthew and Mark…Jesus and his friends are on a boat…Jesus falls asleep…a storm comes…the friends freak out…Jesus calms the storm.
There will be storms. You are in the boat. We will not die.
You know that story not just because you know your bibles…but because it is your story. There have been storms…You are in the boat…You did not and will not die.
So…I want you to remember…that story was true before Amy got here. She is not your Jesus…Don’t ever treat her like Jesus.
She didn’t save you from the storm…the faithfulness of God at work in and through each of you…that’s what saved you…that’s what kept you from dying… It’s what will keep you from dying when Amy pushes you to do courageous things. Remember…you did not and will not die.
My three year old daughter is terrified of storms. She can’t stand the thunder. She cries. But she loves rainbows. And we’ve found that it comforts her when we tell her that thunder and storms give birth to rainbows.
We are so excited for this congregation.