by Rev. Dr. Dale Azevedo,  Sr. Minister

It should be no surprise to those of you who have been around for a while that Racquel and I like to share a sermon series over the summer. Two years ago we had the summer of Elijah (wohoo!) and last year we had Women of the Bible. So, I bet you have been waiting with bated breath on the announcement of what series we will do this summer…

Well, Racquel and I are going out on a limb. We are going to hold a grab-bag summer sermon series!

“What is a grab-bag summer sermon series?” you ask. It’s a lot like it sounds. Everyone is invited to bring a sermon topic with them, place it in a bag with all the others, and then Racquel or I will draw from the bag and preach on whatever theme we draw out. We will do this new each week. So if you bring a suggestion week 1 you will need to bring it again in future weeks. There is no sense in us preaching on your topic on a week you aren’t there!

So as we prepare to begin this experiment on Sunday, here are a few questions you may be asking:

Are you serious?

Yes. In fact, it sounds fun. Or rather, I should say, it sounded fun when Racquel and I decided to do it. Now, it’s actually a bit nerve-racking. But I have learned a few things over my years of ministry. One is this, that pastors can get stuck in a rut. Pastors can get in a preaching groove where they unknowingly start repeating the same sermons or sermon ideas over and over. We do it in new ways, but it can often be the same (or similar) message. It can get stale for the listeners. Another thing I’ve learned is that congregation members have great ideas for sermons. You know what’s on your mind, what questions you have, what you’ve been struggling with or excited about recently. And yet, the preacher may never preach the sermon you want to hear. That’s because we may not know it’s on your mind. This series gives you the chance to request the sermon you want to hear, and we’ll do our best to preach you through it!

Aren’t you scared?

You bet. I said above that it was “nerve-wracking”. When Racquel and I agreed to do this, it sounded fun, fresh, and exciting. Now that it is less than 72 hours away it is starting to weigh on me a bit. But I know two things: 1) God will be with us on Sunday and we’ll get through this one way or another. Jesus said, “Do not worry about what you will say or how you will say it, for it will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speaks but the Holy Spirit.”* And 2) we’ll be in this together. Racquel and I are not preaching alone but will have you present to back us up and share your thoughts as well!

How is this going to work?

This is a great question. I first thought this would work well when both Racquel and I were present. One of us could lead a chunk of the service while the other spent time in prayer and contemplation. However, this will seldom be the case as we are each away a number of weekends through the summer. So Racquel and I will each have our own way of doing it. I plan on drawing the sermon topic at the start of worship and then taking time during hymns and other moments to be in prayer and look things up in the Bible. Also, we may look to you for help. These sermons may be more of a dialogue exploring an issue than the typical sermon monologue you are used to. We may bounce ideas off each other. The last thing is that you may get to experience our sermon development process. Some weeks a sermon may come to us all at once in a flash. Other weeks, we may labor over different ideas, change and grow our perspectives, all in a process of getting to a final idea or main point. You may get to experience this first-hand!

What topics should we include?

I would say there are no limits to what you should include. If your kids are going to stay in worship with you, then they should be encouraged to ask questions too. What you submit in the grab-bag can be a special theme, a scripture verse, a Bible story or person, or even a question that is weighing on your heart. I would recommend that you do not be super specific about your sermon idea. For instance please don’t say, “I want you to preach on how Jesus condemns non-Christians and is clear about this when he says, ‘I am the truth, the light, and the way.'” That may be a good sermon for you to preach, but is not for me. Instead say, “Can you preach on what Jesus meant when he said, ‘I am the truth, the light, and the way.'” or “Does Jesus condemn all non-Christians when he says, ‘I am the truth, the light, and the way.'” These latter options will allow Racquel and I some freedom to be honest to what we believe and what we feel the Spirit is calling us to share with you.

Will you preach on anything?

No. Racquel and I will hold veto power on the sermon topic. We will be open to being challenged to share a sermon on just about any topic, but there may be issues or topics we feel will be too volatile or divisive to preach off the cuff. In these cases, we may wish to hold onto that topic and address it another day when we have had more time to prepare ourselves and you for the message. Otherwise we’ll preach on anything from hotdogs, to batman, to the eschatological ramifications of predestination.

What if this doesn’t work?

That might happen. We’re trying something new, fun, and hopefully engaging. Like anything new, it may not work. It may be too nerve-wracking for Racquel and I or we could just feel it isn’t as engaging as we thought. If that’s the case, one or both of us will switch gears and return to a more traditional style.

Is this going to be every week?

That’s the plan. Don’t worry this isn’t going to be the forever future where Racquel and I never prepare a sermon again. This is something unique for the summer. Also, I will say, we have a few weeks where we will have a guest preacher over the summer. Our guests are not obligated to follow this pattern. They will likely bring their message to you in a more traditional manner.

So that’s that. I hope you are looking forward to this experiment as much as Racquel and I are (or were?). If you have other questions hopefully they will get answered over the weeks ahead. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you on Sunday and exploring what fascinating questions, ideas, or topics you may have for us.

* Mark 13:11