Beverly Hills closing sermon

I know what you're thinking: "Is he the one who turned off the organ during the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service?" Yes. That was me. Do you remember that Christmas? I sure do. They assigned me to turn off the lights in the breaker box out there and I wanted to do a good job. You started singing Silent Night, and I started throwing switches, and it was the darkest, silentist night ever. Despite this stain on my resume, I grew up to become a pastor. And you found it in your hearts to invite me back.

Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church was, for me, that safe place where I knew no matter what I did or left undone, I would be welcomed back. Our family started coming here when we moved into 234 Green Oak Drive. In very early Sunday School, in a room at the end of that long hall, Jim Hosier, who was also the Boy Scout leader, taught me how to color inside the lines with my crayons, making circles instead of jagged edges. I came here to Mrs. Crieger's Kindergarten, where she taught us ABC's with Marion Bowen by her side. I sang in children's choirs - and hated every minute of it. I made my dramatic debut as the Apostle Peter, right over there, crying out for mercy with all the energy of Brando going, "Stella!" Drove Sunday School teachers crazy with annoying questions. Argued (gently) with Eleanor Taylor about whether the Apostle Paul spoke about nuclear non-proliferation treaties. Learned vulnerability from Jim Seaton, and learned the art of humor from Charles Brown. Went to Bluestone for summer camp and fell in love several times. OK, every time. I looked forward to coming here on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, and made some of my closest, lifelong friends. I can't remember a single time the doors opened that I didn't feel welcomed, appreciated, encouraged in the best way. This place was safe, and good, the way all churches ought to be.

I'm honored to be here with Robin and with Rob. It's no coincidence that the three of us grew up here during the years when Mike Warren was pastor. Mike told us stories about motorcycles and Mississippi, about Bob Dylan and sailing. He taught us that ministry is a good life, and that life is good whenever we're about the business of Jesus Christ - loving, welcoming, making safe places for obnoxious teenagers, even those who can't read the red writing on the duct tape over circuit breakers saying, "Do Not Turn Off!"

Today, it's time to turn the lights off. And I'm sad. I remind myself that churches are not buildings and that resurrection takes many forms. I laughed when I heard that somewhere beneath the front yard, there's a time capsule that nobody can locate. That's just perfect. Our memories will stay buried in this safe and sacred ground. They'll stay deeply embedded in our hearts, and in our thoughts, and in the ways we learned here to be about the business of Jesus Christ. Thank you, to Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, for helping mold me into who I am, and for teaching me to share your inspiration and your forgiveness. Through your ministries, the lights will always stay on.


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