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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Potluck (Meal or Gathering) Deadline 7-26-12 @ 10 AM NY Time (07/19/12)

TITLE: A Potluck Sermon - A Personal Saga
By Noel Mitaxa


As a pastor, I’ve always aimed to offer a three-fold menu.

In sharing positive, biblical teaching, I enjoy helping people feed on God’s life-changing grace and truth, to develop their opportunities or to follow Him through their obstacles and turn these obstacles into opportunities for others to discover His grace.

It’s also fun to help them catch a vision of how their ministry gifts can extend God’s kingdom. And if our church cannot cater for their gifting, I like to validate any wider Christian service that they perform.

Most of all, I enjoy seeing members provide emotional nourishment by accepting people in Jesus’ name, whoever they are or wherever they are from. Potluck meals at church or in family gatherings can only enhance that welcome.

Against all of those positives, one particular Sunday was coming too quickly for me...

I was struggling with that first menu item, because the set reading was all too familiar - Genesis chapter eighteen - with angels visiting Abraham and Sarah to promise them that they were about to become first-time parents. No small feat for a couple in their nineties. And since we don’t have babies when we get into our fifties and sixties - because we’d keep forgetting where we’d put them – what hope would poor old Abraham and Sarah have?

“Preaching is a silent game of ‘catch-me-if-you-can.’” Our college lecturer’s warning often echoed in my mind, deflating the fantasy that our preaching would forever enthral our congregations. I know it takes special talent to make God’s Word dull and boring, but how could this sermon catch everyone when they knew the story so well?

Suddenly it came: Let’s bring it into the here and now, and explore how God can do impossible things with us. Let’s focus on how his love infuses the whole deal, so we have nothing to fear even when we are out of our depth. And let’s introduce it carefully…

How many times should I say, “Just imagine?”

I decided that three times would surely lock everyone’s radar onto the fact that my impending introduction would never stand up under oath.

It was exciting to see the points glide onto my sermon notes. Now next Sunday could not come soon enough!

My anticipation did not prepare me for losing old Flora – right off the bat - and far worse, having her proclaim her grief. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Sunday arrived - right on time - and our worship flowed smoothly, right up to my steps into the pulpit.

Scanning the flock to catch every eye, I lifted off…

“Just imagine … just imagine … just imagine…

“Our major geriatric facility has just announced a fifteen-million dollar expansion - a whole new multi-floor wing with all the latest equipment and fully-qualified staff!”

In the second-back row, Flora’s eyes were shining. Yup, she was caught, and I was ready to reel her in…

I smiled. “But this wing will be just a tad different. It will be a maternity wing!”

Everyone roared with laughter - everyone but Flora. Her response slightly spoiled the effect.

“What a stupid waste of money!” she cried out. “What idiotic kind of government have we got?”

She was fuming. And she kept right on. Her volume faded slightly, but anytime I paused or dropped my tone, her muttering reappeared. I think the sermon covered the points I’d hoped to cover, and I know God was there; but my thought-flow felt as planned as a potluck dinner. Was her anger ambushing anyone else?

It was also hard to hear myself above a second, inaudible noise - the whoosh of air escaping from my rhetoric-balloon. But our final hymn and benediction eventually arrived, ushering in for me a moment to personally restore peace with Flora.

Sweetness and light returned.

But then Vicky came over to shake my hand - her face flushed. With laughter, as she explained, “You didn’t only lose Flora today. You left me behind too, because I stayed right there in the maternity wing. I couldn’t get that picture out of my mind, and I’m still laughing at the thought of all those elderly ladies in delivery rooms, while their husbands were shuffling around the waiting area with their walking frames!”

She walked away, still smiling.

Some you win.

Some you lose.

Others are just rained out.

Author’s note: this story is absolutely true.

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This article has been read 359 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/26/12
Oh I love this. You had me snickering at the three imagines (I would have deflated the balloon quicker than Flora) I think this story has so many messages in it. Sometimes we worry and fret too much about our part in God's plan that we tend to take control and not give him the reins. Now I'm not saying you did that at all, just that sometimes that can happen to me. Seriously though, you never know how those words we speak or write will impact others. I'm willing to bet someone in that congregation was touched in a way you can't even imagine. Perhaps with Flora's ranting someone realized the money they were going to spend to improve their property would be better spent helping foster kids get items they need to feel like part of the family. The Holy Spirit works in many ways. For me, your story lifted a heaviness feeling off of my heart and allowed me to restart my day with a good laugh instead of the fear and pain I was starting with an hour ago.
Linda Goergen07/26/12
I loved this story, was chuckling beginning to end! You truly have set quite a vision into minds, not only that day with Flora, Vicky and others…but with me too, for it will be difficult to read that scripture again without envisioning your “multi-million dollar elder-care maternity ward”
Needless to say, that was quite a memorable sermon for your congregation! I loved the line “my thought-flow felt as planned as a potluck dinner”...great explanation at how you felt at the moment! But even in the humor it really was an effective sermon, for it truly brings home the shock of Abraham and Sarah being parents at so advanced an age. Makes you understand that though faithful, Sarah would laugh at such a thing. This was so well written I felt as if I was right there watching it all! And I am still smiling! Great job!
C D Swanson 07/26/12

Thanks for the biggest laugh of the day! Loved it.

God blessa~
Leola Ogle 07/30/12
What an amusing, delightful story, especially for those of us past child-bearing years! Yowzers, no maternity ward for me, thank you very much! LOL Good job, well written and so glad it's a true story! God bless!
Beth LaBuff 07/30/12
oh man! I thought your creativity with the sermon very clever! I'd have enjoyed the live version of your potluck sermon. And in a "truth is stranger than fiction" moment, last Sunday (yesterday) we had a potluck followed by a long-overdue business meeting. One of the things our group decided was to give a love gift of money to the single moms to help toward school expenses. One of our elderly brothers who doesn't hear so well, was confused, he thought we were giving the love gift to "Senior Mom's." :)
Loren T. Lowery07/31/12
You have a natural gift for story telling (even if it's true and being retold - which in my book takes a greater talent). I so enjoyed this and could see everything, even dear ole Flora. And the emotions felt by the pastor - they were so authentic that I had both compassion and empathy for him the entire time.
Hiram Claudio08/01/12
I really enjoyed this. It was nice to look into the mind of a sermon developing - most don't understand what it takes. This was special for me. I enjoyed Flora too and began to wonder how many over the years I left ... in the maternity ward. Nice work!
Catrina Bradley 08/01/12
I can more easily imagine a geriatric maternity ward than I can this actually happening during a pastor's sermon. Oh the hilarious horror! Nice job. :)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/02/12
Congratulations for ranking 6th in level three!
Danielle King 08/03/12
Congratulations Noel, on what you once termed 'a near miss.'

This is very entertaining and, as always, well written.

I'm still planning to get that bus trip organised to pop over and hear you live.