Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first woman bishop in the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church spoke at the Friday morning session of the Festival of Homiletics. Frankly, I was not intending to be either impressed or blessed. I was both. It was the end of the week, I was tired, there is only so much preaching one can take…even great preaching. But when she arose to speak, she commanded attention. For horrible reasons I was reminded of the cult leader Mary Manin Morrissey (formerly of the Life Enrichment Center of Wilsonville and president of the Association for Global New Thought) …a physically attractive woman who has a powerful way of speaking. Fortunately this woman uses her gifts for God and for good instead of for evil.
She used as her text the familiar passage in Heb 11:1-10 about those who have preceded us “by faith”. She began with a story of miners trapped below ground in Pennsylvania. After much work a pipe was drilled down to them to give them air. Those above tapped in Morse Code repeatedly to see if anyone was still alive. Finally after a long time someone tapped back a reply: “Is there any hope?” The reply that was sent back down was, “What are you willing to trust God for?”
That phrase really was the mantra for her entire sermon to these gathered ministers: “What are you willing to trust God for?”
Some quotes/observations made by Bishop McKenzie:
“It’s hard sometimes to believe that things will work out for the best when things look so bad, This morning let us take a look at faith that is caught in the cross-fires of human events.”
“When ends don’t meet, even when they are too apart to even speak? “What are you willing to trust God for?”
God deals with us on a need-to know basis.
The writer of Hebrews [in some estimations, a woman I might add] said that the Hebrew Christians would remember the movement of God in the past.
The Bible is the collection of the memories of God’s people
God gave the people of Noah’s time 120 years of grace. Am I living in a time of God’s grace and the time of judgment will come?
Noah preached the message as God had given it to him.How do we make it when God gives us something to preach and the people refuse to listen?
Are we practicing what we preach or are we preaching what people practice even when it is contrary to the Word of God?
Noah was willing to do his part of the plan
For things to work out, there had to be a cooperation of human effort & divine intervention.
Noah was trying to preach something that only Noah heard.
The “dis” family joined Noah’s church: disinterest, disruption, dismay, disbelief, distrust, disappointment, discounted, discriminating, disillusion, distress, distorted, distracted, disorderly, disoriented, disgusted,
We must remember that we have a “but, God” reality.
- Elijah’s widow had no money, “but, God”
- Jeremiah was too young “but, God”
- Abraham and Sarah were too old, “but, God”
- David was a sinner, “but, God”
- Peter, James and John were uneducated, “but, God”
- Rabah was a prostitute, “but, God”
Technique: Find a phrase & then play with ways it applies and repeat it with the phrase.
In all of the challenges of the past seven years, and particularly in the past year, I needed to hear the encouraging words that she brought: “What are you willing to trust God for?” and “But, God” Thank you Bishop MacKenzie. If there was any question that my time and money spent on going to the FOH in Nashville was well spent, (which there was not) your sermon made it perfectly clear that God wanted me there.