The Best Is Yet to Come
by Rev. Randy Brown
(This is Rev. Brown’s first sermon after arriving in Manchester TN. Upon entering the sanctuary, you were given a plastic fork.)
Does everybody have a fork? That’s a strange question, but you will understand more about it later. Now, don’t stab anybody with those.
Our Scripture this morning is taken from the book of Lamentations. It’s taken out of the Old Testament – Chapter 3 verses 22 – 24. Out of reverence and respect for our Lord, and in accordance with the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, would you stand for the reading of God’s holy word.
22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
This is the word for the people of God. We’re going to pray together, would be seated as we pray:
Father, as I stand here this day. I pray that you would come and rescue me – hide me behind your cross. That the words that are heard would be your words, and not mine. That the one that is seen is you, and not me. And above all else, may we experience the quite shuffling of sandals and know that Jesus the Christ is in our midst. It’s in His name and for His glory I pray, Amen.
For me, well you know what Sunday this is. This is see-what-we-got Sunday. You all are looking at me and saying, “see what we got” and I’m looking at you seeing what I got. That is something that I think is tradition in United Methodist circles. But, I want you know that I’m honored and humbled to be here, and to serve as your Pastor. McMinnville is my home but this is kind of a second home for me, a second home church, and I have already met a lot of you and a lot of you I have known in earlier times. And, Tracy was in our youth group in Cookeville, but we won’t say what date that was. Janet and I went to the same high school together and her senior year, and you may not know this, she was homecoming queen. And, my brother was her escort. My aunt, Jean Heard, is in here somewhere today. There she is. And Ami Shedd, where are you seated? That right’s. You were my oldest daughter’s Camp Counselor at Cedar Crest a few years ago. And Dana, Andrew , Judy and I have come to know each other. But as I said, I grew up in McMinnville and I was a Pioneer through-and-through. But, don’t hold that against me. When I was growing up, especially during football season, my uncle and my grandfather and I had this tradition to come over and visit on Sunday afternoons after church. If we won that game when we played Coffee County, I was ready to come on Saturday. That was bragging rights. But, if we lost, and that didn’t happened many times – at least as I remember it – I would wait as long as I could wait. I didn’t want to come on Saturday. I didn’t want to come on Sunday. I didn’t want to come on the next Sunday. Because, I didn’t want to hear it.
I want you know that God can do amazing things, and I want you to know that I’m all in. My daughter just got embarrassed by that, but that’s OK. I want you to know that God is into new. He said;
“Behold I make all things new, that if anyone be in Christ they are a new creation and the old has passed away and the new has come.”
Every morning are his mercies for as I read in Lamentations a moment ago, God is into new. Now new ideas are not necessarily better. Better is better. But God is into new and that’s something we need to realize. God is into new. Every twenty four hours, He gives us a new day. Every four and one half weeks, He gives us a new month. Every three months, He gives us a new season. Every twelve months He gives us a new year. Every ten years. He gives us a new decade. Every ten decades he gives us a new century. God is into new. God wants to do a new work in us. He brings about new seasons in our life. He brings about new friends. Sometimes we’re dealt with new trials, but He gives us new faith and new opportunities.
He’s into new. He brought the Israelites out of the old land into the new land. They wandered and they wandered and they complained and they questioned and they whined – kind of like Methodist Preachers at appointment time. But, God does a new thing and God wants to do a new thing in us. As we’re going through those times, we are not sure what’s going to happen. We have questions. We have struggles, but guess what, God is getting us ready for something that he’s getting us ready for. You see, when what he’s got for us is ready, and when we’re ready, God will do a new thing. God is into new, and I believe that God is into new in this church. God has a future for us. In Jeremiah 29:11, we’re told that God has a future with hope for us. it’s not despair. it’s not doom and gloom. His hope is for a new plan. God is not a stagnant God and we must not be stagnant and have faith as we move on as God’s people.
God is into new. You know God wants to move us from where we are to where he wants us to be. And, sometimes we’re not sure where that is, but we just have to go with it. We have to follow Him wherever he will take us knowing that He will never leave us nor will He forsake us.
God’s people are a people that are on the move. If you look through the Scriptures you know that God always has people on the move. They’re not stagnant people. You look at Adam and Eve and they were on the move because they were hiding from God in the Garden. God said; “Where are you”, and they had to fess up. the children of Israel were always on the move. They would go from one place to the other and beg Pharaoh to free them. They were always on the move. You take the story of the shepherds that we will be looking at Christmas time, as we do every year. The shepherds they were people who were on the move. The Magi, the wise men, they were people who were on the move. Joseph and Mary, they were people who were on the move. The prodigal son was one who was on the move. He went way off to the far and land into the swine pit. And when he got uncomfortable there, he turned around and came home.
God’s people are always on the move. Look at the story of the good Samaritan. The man was traveling. He he got beat up and left to die. And the Samaritan came along and took care of him. Since he couldn’t stay there long, he said, “You take care of him and whatever else I owe you, I will repay you when I come back.” God’s people are always on the move. I wonder what he has for us. But sometimes we want to be like the folks on the Mount of Transfiguration. We just want to talk about the good old days and the glory times and build a tent right here. Lord, just let us stay on this mountaintop. And Jesus said , “no no no no you can’t do that.”
My people are people who are on the move. God is into new.
The psalmist wrote; “yeah though I walk through the valley. On the move. And, sometimes, there are those valleys that come and we don’t like it very much, but going through the valley is part of the deal. We’re on a journey. You see God is getting us ready for what God is getting ready for us, and if that’s happening, we don’t stay stagnant, we don’t stay in one place. God wants to do a new thing. So I want to ask you a question this morning. Are you ready? Are you open to what God has for you? Or do we just want to stay where it’s comfortable, like an old pair shoes that’s our favorite, and we just want to put them on cause they feel so good.
God has something new for us. My mom’s here and she can remember that when I was growing up I had a sweatshirt. Mike, it was a University of Tennessee sweatshirt. The holes in that sweatshirt had their own set of holes. That’s how worn out it was, and we patched that thing and then patched the patches. She would throw it away and I would go find it. Comfortable, sometimes we get like that, but that’s not where God has for us to be. God says, I have something new for you. He wants to take us to new places. I don’t know where he wants to lead us. I don’t know how that we will get there. But I know that God wants to lead us into new.
Some people say, “Well, a new Preacher, I hope he can out-preach anybody in the County”. I’m not worried about out-preaching people. If I were worried about out-preaching people, I would have quit a long time ago. And, “Well we want to outgrow the other churches.” but I don’t worry about that. I just want to out love them. If we love, God will take care of the rest.
I wonder what it is that God is calling you to newness in. Perhaps it’s being a Sunday school teacher. Perhaps it’s the mission trip that Andrew was talking about a little earlier. Perhaps it’s an Awana program. Perhaps it’s to invite others. Perhaps it’s somebody you need to forgive. Perhaps it’s a Bible study that you need to join. Where is God leading you to a new area in your life. Maybe it’s the thing that we need to change our attitude. That it’s not all about us.
Now, I remember a lot of things that have happened on my first Sunday at different churches and sometimes that kind gives you the attitude of some folks. Seven years ago when I moved to the other “Chester”, you know, just over the lake, I was going around and I was greeting people on that first Sunday morning, and I was saying; “Hello, I’m Randy Brown, and I had these two ladies come up to me and they’re are getting ready go to their seats and I was standing right there by their pew, and this woman said to me; “I just want you to know you’re in my spot”. And I’m the Preacher! I said; “I think I’ve got a chair up there behind the pulpit and I will go there in a minute, but right now I just want to introduce myself”. You know, when I said that to her, a wall broke down and we were great friends until she moved to another church. God is calling us to a new attitude.
I know something of the DNA of this church. I know that years ago, back in the 60s, this church reached out and cared for the children of this community. I know that because I was one of them. I came to this church as a young boy and stood about six or eight rows back, over here by the wall, with my Grand Daddy. And I know the DNA of this church. And I hope that God will continue to use that DNA. Now, I realize too that this is not my Granddaddy’s church anymore, but I want it to be the church where my grandchildren and your grandchildren come to, and that they find Jesus. That’s where God is calling us. That’s the new that God is calling us to.
I remember sitting right there with Pops, I remember the only –and don’t tell Julie this – the only children’s message that I remember the whole time I was growing up was given right there. Brother WC Link had the children’s message that morning. It was about; Don’t hide your light. And he had this trick candle and every kid out there was trying to blow out that candle and we couldn’t do it. And, he said that’s the way your faith needs to be. Don’t let anybody blow it out. So I know the DNA of this church. And I know the Sunday school classes that I went to and the love and the concern that those folks shared for me.
Sometimes it’s not easy to be open to new things. Have you heard the story of the little boy who was very bad? All day long he caused his mother fits. One thing after another, he just was given her fits the whole way. And she sent him to bed early that night and said to him; “Go to bed, and when you go to bed, you need to say your prayers. And, when you say your prayers, you need to ask God to help you be a better boy. So he went up to his bedroom and he got down beside his bed and his mother stood outside the door listening. And he said, “Dear God please help me to be a better boy tomorrow, cause I’ve been bad today. Please help me be a better boy if you can. But, Lord you if can’t, that’s okay because I like it OK just the way I am.”
Show me a church, Show me a person, show me a Sunday school class, show me a country, show me a community that’s in love with itself, just the way things are, and I’ll show you one person that is not open to the new ways that God has for them to be. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s process, but God is in the miracle business. If he can take McMinnville Pioneer and make him a Manchester Red Raider, He can do anything. But, in those growing times, we have to ask ourselves, “ Are we growing through, what we’re going through”. So, we go through a lot of stuff but are we growing through it, are we learning, are we allowing God to teach us.
Many of you that know a part of my story know that, a couple years ago, I went through two spinal cord surgeries. That’s why I sometimes don’t walk as good as I should and some days are more difficult than others. But, I went for a period of a couple of months where I couldn’t walk it all. Literally could not walk, literally was an invalid. After two surgeries, after a month at physical therapy rehab at Baptist Hospital, after 72 outpatient visits for physical therapy, I continued to feel God and know God’s healing in my life.
My main physical therapist was a lady named Jean. She is married to a Baptist preacher and she didn’t like Methodist Preachers. I looked at her one day and I said, “Jean, anything you and dish out, I can take. And, I’ll tell you what, it was going through the trial, going through the hard times that the victory came. Two and a half years later, I felt kind of like that Old Testament character who wrestled with the Angel. And, when the wrestling match was over he wouldn’t let go. And, through that tough time, I kept saying that God was teaching me things.
God what you do have for me? I’m not going let you go til you bless me. You know, sometimes our struggles are hard, but God uses those struggles. You see, he’s getting us ready for what he’s got ready for us. Now, if I believe anything, I believe in the sermon title this morning - The Best is Yet to Come. Let me illustrate and I’ll be through. The preacher got to his new church and got a phone call early in the week. It was Aunt Lizzie, and Aunt Lizzie said; “Preacher, I want you to come see me and I said; “I’ll be there tomorrow.” And she said; “Naw, I want you to come today”. He went today. She said “Preacher you will be here long enough, probably, to do my funeral and there are some things I want to get straight with you right now, about my funeral. He said okay. She said, “I want you to bury me in my white bonnet.” Then she said; “Write it down. I don’t want you to forget it.” He wrote it down and she said; “I want you to bury me in my blue dress because everybody knows me in that blue dress – write it down – blue dress”. And then she said, “Preacher I want you to bury me with a fork in my hand.” He said, “Aunt Lizzie, I understand the white bonnet and I understand the blue dress, but why in the world do you want be buried with a fork in your hand”? She said, boy, have you ever been in church suppers?” He said, “Yes ma’am” and she said, “When you are through eating and they come around to take your plate, what do they tell you? They tell you to keep your fork. You ever wonder why they tell you keep your fork. Son I’ll tell you why they tell you. Because the best is yet to come and I want people to walk by my casket and I want them to know that Lizzie believes the best is yet to come”.
So, I’m giving you a fork this morning because I want you to take it home with you. Put it where you have your devotional time. Let it remind you to pray for this church and pray for your new Preacher and pray for the staff. And, I want you to know that I believe, just like Aunt Lizzie, the best is yet to come.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.