Why I Love Park Central
In the world of television there are several things that mark the success of a show: Having the pilot do well, and being picked up for a season, having the highest Nielsen Ratings for a week, being put in syndication, and reaching the 100th episode. Every time one of these markers are crossed, the actors, directors, and producers have a reason to celebrate.
Well a few weeks ago we crossed a marker as a congregation; back on January 20th of this year I preached my 100th sermon in this pulpit. I was going to say something then, but we were in the middle of the series “Not a Fan” and doing the pulpit swap with Nederland and Westgate, I thought I would wait a little bit.
Another factor to what I want to do this morning is that I was given the opportunity to speak at our sister congregations, over the last month. And while I really enjoyed the opportunity to worship and speak with them, I was reminded of how lucky I feel to be part of this family. Over the past two and a half years we have endured the sadness of several deaths, sicknesses, and the loss when a part of this family moves away.
But we have also been blessed with folks coming to join us on this great adventure, we have witnessed the joy that comes from families being created in marriage, and babies born to make those families fuller. We have also been able to rejoice with the angels in heaven as we have added brothers and sisters to God’s family through baptism.
I wanted to do something a little different this morning, I hope that’s going to be ok. You might have noticed that I am not dressed to preach this morning, and that’s not an accident. I wanted to spend our time together this morning sharing with you about how blessed my family feels to be apart of this family, and why I love Park Central.
Some of you know how this good white trash family went from working with a church family in Scufflegrit Alabama to working with this church family in Texas. I received a call from Charlie Reed, and when he said Texas I laughed and said thank you but no thank you. A few days later Bruce called me and convinced me to come and just talk. On the plane to Houston, Trista and I came up with four criteria, four things that we wanted to see if we were going to uproot our lives and take this step.
1) We wanted a place that had an Eldership that loved the church and a church that would love our family and welcome us into the family.
2) We wanted a place that had great schools, that offered the boys the chance to grow academically, physically, and socially. A school system that challenged them, offered them the tools they needed to be successful in the classroom and in the real world.
3) We wanted to go to a church that was overrun with young families so that our boys would have a peer group they could rely on and not have to take this journey alone.
4) We wanted a place where Trista and I could get to our parents house in a days drive.
We believe that Park Central had three of the four things we were looking for, and they were committed to work with Brian and now with Nick to reach out to the families in this community so that we can continue and expand on the work that was started here years ago.
So this morning, I wanted to celebrate a little bit and share with you how thankful we are for you.
We are thankful that You have Showed Us Hospitality
Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
In this passage Peter writes that we are to continue to love one another earnestly and show hospitality. As the generations pass we have become much less hospitable. In the Old Testament a traveler would arrive in a city and would go to the town square where a citizen of that town would meet them and invite them home for a meal and a place to spend the night.
Hospitality was one of the levitical laws given by God, we read in Leviticus 19:33-34 Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native- born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
This was still happening during the first century, Jesus mentions it when he sends out the 70 in Matthew 10:11-14 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
But today it is hard to find hospitality. One of the things that we love about this church is the hospitality that you have shown our family and all of the different ways that you have show hospitality.
I have lost count of the times that we were taken out to eat or invited into your homes to feed our body and spirits with your friendship. You have invited us to be a part of your family celebrations. And we have been the guest at your homes to share holiday meals, so that we would not have to feel alone being far from our families.
It is not uncommon for me to come to the building and find gifts of fruit, vegetables, deer, duck, as well as pies, and cakes, and breads, and other goodies. I even had someone bring me lemons, and when they found out that I didn’t have an electric juicer, the next week they just brought me the juice. Extravagant gifts of time and thoughtfulness that are your way of saying, you were thought about.
You also have given us the freedom to just drop by and we know that you won’t make us stand on the front porch. You show us hospitality by inviting us in and offering us something to drink and allow us to enjoy your company. And then those of you who have blessed us by just dropping by our home as well and over looking the balls and cleats on the floor and the boys running through the house.
We truly feel that we are not just the paid employee here at Park Central, but that are a part of the family. You have blessed us with your hospitality and we would like to thank you for that.
We are thankful that you have Bared Our Burdens.
The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
When a man sees a woman carrying something, it is considered gentlemanly for him to offer to carry it for her. He doesn’t really think about it; he just does it because that’s the way his daddy taught him to act. Even between guys; if a man sees a friend picking up boxes and carrying them from one place to another, he’s going to step up without a word and begin helping with that chore.
Bearing a burden for someone else is an entirely self-sacrificing, unselfish thing. You’re generally doing something you have not been obligated to do, it takes your time and your effort, and it relieves the load entirely or almost entirely from someone else.
But the best thing about burden bearing to me is that it ultimately leads to time to talk, either while you are helping or if you get finished quickly and have some time to just stand around. Friendly conversation makes a stronger bond between friends; someone left with a good feeling, that someone else voluntarily stepped in and took their load upon themselves.
We have been especially blessed in this area because we do not trust well. Trista and I were raised to be independent, add to that the fact that we have never lived close enough to family to get help with the boys, or with sickness, or any type of struggle. We learned to do everything by ourselves, we didn’t even know where to start to ask for help. The greatest thing is that we have not had to ask for help, it has just been given, and we have never been made to feel that we were a burden or bother.
There are countless ways that you have helped us bear our burdens. And some of the examples are glaring like the many Wednesday nights that Trista has had a difficult day or week in the classroom, and after the devotional, instead of going to a Bible class some of you will sit with her on the couches, and listen and talk and let her know that it’s just as crazy in your school.
Then there are the not so obvious that meant the world to us. With our parents living 6 and 12 hours from us, there are times that you have stepped up and filled their roll. You have been a surrogate grandparent on Grandparents day at school so that the boys would not feel left out.
Last year when Rylan’s heart was running away from him and we had him hooked up to all of those monitors, several of you sat and listened to me talk about my fear and frustration. You didn’t feel the need to offer advice you just sat and listened to a dad that was scared.
And then there are the times that you have helped me with minor, and major home projects. Those times you have helped me fix cars. You have allowed the boys, who could not go to school because they were sick, stay at your house so that I could go visit folks in the hospitals, and even on thursday while Trista was having tests run, someone came by the house and took the boys to school for us.
It always makes life easier when you know that you have a family here to help you along.
We are thankful that you have Loved Us
Jesus says in John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. It is nice to be loved, and it’s the most precious commodity we have. It is the greatest and most intimate gift we can receive or give to another.
Jesus said that we are to love one another with no strings attached; no qualifiers, no hoops to jump through, the way that God and Jesus love us. For love to be real and genuine we love just because. Not because we have an ulterior motive, or because we know that we will get something out of the relationship but just because we received the love of God.
At the end of the day the reason we love is because we have received the free gift of God’s love. That’s why we can love so freely and extravagantly.
Let me share a little secret with you this morning, if you want to get into my heart love my kids. If you want to show me any love at all love Trafton and Rylan.
I am so indebted to those of you that have showered my family with your love through little gifts of appreciation, letters, cards, and kind and supportive words. And I am indebted to those of you that have been active in our lives.
But I am doubly indebted to those of you that have showered my boys with love. I am thankful that there are many of you that make them feel important as you listen to them tell you about their latest and greatest adventure. I see the smile on your face as you listen to them talk about soccer, or basketball, or other stories they have to share. Those little moments, 5 seconds here 2 minutes there mean the world to me as a dad because I know that they make two boys feel very important.
You have loved us when you showed up to those soccer games, or basketball games, or school concerts, and performances. You have loved us when you invested in our lives, and we are better because you loved.
As we pass this marker and look towards the next one I just wanted to let you know how grateful we are to have taken this journey with you. When Trista and I sat down over the past few weeks and began to reminisce about you we came up with a long list of ways that you have endeared yourself to us. There is not enough time to tell you everything we remember, and there is far to much that we have forgotten. Thank you for all that you have done.
The first Sunday I stood before you we talked about Elijah and his time of waiting. On that Sunday I told you that God was not finished with us, but that He had much greater things in store for us. But that comes with the warning that if we are going to experience all that God has in store we must be actively involved in the work of His kingdom.
As we pass this marker the same promise lays before us. I hope that you have a sense of excitement as we move deeper in our faith. Thank you for all of the ways that you have endeared yourself to my life and the life of my family. It is my continued prayer that we will be intentional about the mission that is in front of us.
The future of this church is wide open, and our brightest days are ahead if we will only allow God to work through us.
Close with a prayer of thanksgiving.