Seven lay persons graduate to become Certified Lay Ministers
Bishop Johnson preached at the Certified Lay Minister Graduation, October 24, 2010, at Norwood United Methodist Church.
On Sunday October 24, 2010 seven lay members of the EPC became Certified Lay Ministers (CLM). This is the second class to complete the CLM process and we are proud to now have seventeen CLM’s in this conference.
Jennifer Crosby, Russ Durbin, Georgieanna Bernard, John Krimmel, Diane Orwig, Tom Tomlinson and Wilhelmina Young received certificates from Bishop Peggy Johnson, Conference Lay Leader, Dr. Mary White, Rev. Dr. Alfred Maloney, Class Instructor and CLM Conference Director Brenda Tildon. The graduation was held at Norwood U M Church and the host pastor was Rev. Neil Gutmaker.
Bishop Johnson delivered an inspiring message entitled “Living Sacrifice” and challenged the students to take what they’ve learned and go back to their local churches and continue to do ministry in partnership with their pastors and other church leaders.
We are especially thankful for all the Clergy and church members who came out and supported their students as they received certification.
The next class is scheduled to start on Jan. 21, 2011 and will conclude on April 9, 2011.
There are pre-requirements to attend class and the cut-off date to register is December 16, 2010.
If you are a Christ Servant Minister and would like additional information on the Certified Lay Ministers (CLM) program go to the conference website or email Brenda Tildon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-836-8553.
Here is the text of Bishop Johnson’s sermon:
Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, who are many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve, if it is teaching, let him teach, it if it encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously, if it is leadership, let him govern diligently, if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
This past summer I traveled to the Congo and visited many small villages in
the most remote part of the bush country. In every place we were greeted with
crowds of people, the waving of palm branches, and the ceremonial presentation
of a goat to the bishop (me). I never wanted a goat. I looked at that little creature
with its big brown eyes and pondered how I could set it free when no one was
looking. But this was an honor and a cultural kindness that could not refuse. I
gratefully received the goat and later it was slaughtered and served as a very
expensive and hospitable meal for us American visitors.
I thought about that goat and the long history of the Jewish people who
worshiped God in the temple and every year they were asked to bring a lamb for a
sacrifice for their sins. Hundreds and thousands of lambs were placed on the altar
and their blood flowed. There were many, many dead animal sacrifices on the
stone altar in the temple, surrounded by priestly men in long robes.
This image no doubt was in Paul’s mind as he called the Christians in Rome
to be living sacrifices. In Christ, the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice on the
cross had been made and now Christians are asked to live as Christ out in the
world in sacrificial ways, in ways that please God.
But that is easier said than done. In some ways it would be easier just to be
martyred than to daily live in this contentious, sinful world as agents of Christ. The
world and all its temptations are close at hand. I remember the chaplain at my
college years ago saying “the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep
crawling off of the altar.” And indeed it is a spiritual struggle, a daily deep self
denial to be Christ’s living sacrifice in the world.
You come here today as those who have completed the Certified Lay
Minister training and are fully trained to be a lay minister in some part of the
vineyard of God’s Kingdom. I commend you for your hard work, for following
God’s call on your life and for the personal sacrifices you have made that brought
you to this place. So I say to you today….stay on the altar! Don’t be one of those
sacrifices that slips off and runs away. The church needs you so badly. How do
you stay a living sacrifice? Paul tells us in this precious 12th chapter in the letter to
the church in Rome.
Don’t conform to the pattern of the world. Did you ever have Silly Putty
when you were a kid? It was a blob of tan-colored putty in a plastic egg and it was
a rather simple thing…a blob of stuff that you could shape into something, or
press it against a newspaper and the print would come off and stick to the putty.
Kids today would find it hard to imagine how this would be entertaining but as a
child I thought it was wonderful. You put it back into its little plastic egg when you
were done playing with it. No matter what the shape, it would always go back to
conforming to the shape of the plastic egg.
We Christians act like Silly Putty when we go to church. We say all the right
things…promise God our lives….and then when we go out into the world we act
just like the world. We are constantly worrying about life, competing and
struggling with our sisters and brothers, gossiping, holding back our money from
those in need, rushing through our prayers, judging our pastors, acting like we are
I see a lot of Silly Putty among Christians and I say to you don’t conform to
that pattern of the world. You be different. You live like Christ. Hold on to Jesus
to keep yourself away from the pattern of the world.
One of my favorite hymns “O Jesus, I Have Promised” (verse 2) puts it so
well: “O let me feel thee near me. The world is every near, I see the sights that
dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear. My foes are every near me, around me and
within, but Jesus, draw thou nearer and shield my soul from sin.”
Another way to stay on the altar is by being humble. Paul says “Do not
think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with
sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
Notice he is not saying here to disavow any of your positive attributes in self
abasement. This is not the meaning of humility. Humility comes out of clear-
thinking comparison to yourself and your faith relationship with God. Only
through God’s grace do we have anything admirable, good and worthy of praise.
When we see ourselves as recipients of God’s gifts (and not self-sufficient) then
we learn the true meaning of humility.
Mephibosheth is an Old Testament character with one of the most
unpronounceable names but his story speaks of very pronounceable truth. He
was the lame son of Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of King Saul and a dear
friend of David. When David became king after the death of Saul and Jonathan he
searched to find if there was anyone in Jonathan’s family that he could show a
kindness. Mephibosheth was referred to King David. He was unable to walk due
to an accident that left him lame in both legs. When David called for
Mephibosheth and offered him a place at his table for life (ancient society’s form
of disability benefits) Mephibosheth cried “what is your servant that you should
notice a dead dog like me?” David gave him all of Saul’s property, land and even a
servant to care for him. Everything was a gift from David. Mephibosheth had
none of this apart from the gift of the King.
Likewise you and I are Mephibosheth: everything we have and everything
we can do is a gift from God. So what’s to be proud about? We should give God
the due for the gifts we have been given and not take credit for our self.
I love the hymn “Give Thanks” It says: “Give thanks with a grateful heart,
give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks, because he’s given Jesus, Christ his son.
And now let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich, because of what
the Lord has done for us.”
We also stay on the altar of sacrifice as we practice unity. Paul says “each
member belongs to all the others” but we hardly act like it sometimes. Somehow
our diversity, a precious gift from God, is twisted by us “altar-escapers” into
division and divisiveness. We only want to play with the people who look like us,
think like us, believe like us, and get along with us and that is the meaning of
Jesus’ last prayer to the Father the night before he died was “may they (you
Christians) be one and we (God and Jesus) are one.” Unity and love are the signs
of a Christian. Fussing and fuming at each other for whatever reason makes the
cause of Christ look like just another secular civic organization with its politics and
In a recent episode of the musical “dramdey” “Glee” one of the main
characters, Kurt, who is gay, said “The reason I don’t go to church is because most
churches don’t think very much of gay people, or women, or science.” I get
letters from time to time from people of good will who say they believe that
homosexuality is a sin and they feel the church should not tolerate its acceptance.
There is clearly a disunity here.
Whatever your stance on this issue or on any of our divisive issues we need
to dialog and work together in unity. We need to find our center in Christ. We can
only do that in the strength and Spirit of God who calls us to do the humanly
impossible task of working with diverse people and people we disagree with.
I love the hymn “Help Us Accept Each Other” It goes like this: “Lord, for
today’s encounters with all who are in need, who hunger for acceptance, for
righteousness and bread. We need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding
on, renew us with your Spirit, Lord, free us, make us one.”
Finally…you stay on the altar when you use your gifts…your talents…your
God-given skills for ministry. Paul gives a good list here: preaching, serving,
teaching, encouraging, giving, governing and acts of mercy. You Certified Lay
Ministers who stand here today have many of these gifts. Thank God for your
willingness to use your gifts and to offer yourself to the church for service. Jesus
said “You are the light of the world…a city set on a hill cannot be hid…nor can you
light a lamp and hide it under a bushel but put it on a stand that it gives light to all
in the house. Let your light so shine that people can see your good works and give
glory to your father in heaven.”
So use your gifts! Give of yourself freely and without reserve. Be willing to
use your gifts in ways you don’t expect. I was a music major in college, a church
organist and choir director. God called me to work with deaf people who neither
could hear music or value it. However, the gift of music was amazingly a part of
my ministry at the deaf church. The deaf choir signed music in concert in ways
that took the praise of God to a whole new place. My gifts and training in music
was not wasted but used in a surprising, unexpected way.
You might have your heart set on a particular ministry and it simply might
not come your way. Does this mean your heard God wrong or your gifts and
training is all for naught? Absolutely not! God did not bring you this far to drop
you now. You need to be flexible and able to listen to God’s offer to you to do
something you don’t want to do or think is below you skill level. God’s may lead
you into service that is new and different. God may want you to work at your
home church and do the tasks that no one wants to do. And when you are down
on your knees doing that work…you will meet Jesus.
The hymn “Jesu, Jesu” speaks of that servant heart of Christ: “Jesu, Jesu, fill
us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you. Loving
puts us on our knees, serving as though we are slaves, this is the way we should
live with you.”
Be a living sacrifice: with humility, working for the unity of the body and
using your spiritual gifts in service to the Lord. We do this out of gratitude for
God’s mercy. We do this because it is our act of worship and in doing so we will
find our true selves. Always keep a hymn of praise in your heart as you go!