Preacher on the spot

I was planning on being worship leader this evening and had had some things prepared. But when the pastor called to say that he had taken sick and couldn't do the service and would I try and see what we could do to have a good service anyway, I only had about an hour to get a message ready.


I am taking a distance course on lay speaking, and have a pile of books that need reading, but the next contact session is in October and so they are kind of waiting for the summer break. I'm no different from my students. At least I had just purchased a Book of Worship and had rifled through it before putting it on the shelf.

So it was drop-everything-and-see-what-we-can-find time. BoW had some good prayers, so that was easy. But the message, on witnessing, man, that would be hard.

I had been planning on reading bits of Acts 10, the chapter about the conversion of the first Gentile, Cornelius, to Christianity. See, at that time it was felt you had to be a Jew first, and then Christianity was a sect of Judaism. But Simon Peter was told in a vision to cut the unclean number and accept everyone. So he did, after witnessing to this Gentile and his family, and then he baptized him.

Well, the pastor had suggested that I ask people if they had good witnessing stories. Right. But I did just that - I found a great story from "The Way of a Pilgrim", a 19th century, anonymous Russian about how to use the Gospel to combat alcoholism. So I requested that people think if they had anything to share, read the story, and recounted a small story of my own.

And three people responded, came up, and gave a short story. It was really great!

We also sorted out giving each other communion (one remarked afterwards: good job we're not Catholics, they would freak at the idea, but we are just celebrating in remembrance, not having transubstantiation of the bread), luckily there is even a rule for this in the Book of Discipline.

So working together, we had a great service! And as the last song, we sang Sibelius' "This is my Land", one of my favorites.

Now, I wonder if this counts for my lay preacher's license, or if the superintendent gets on my case for presuming to preside over communion. We'll see!

Update: found the Russian story on Google books: http://tinyurl.com/owfkle pages 299-300.

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