Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 5th Sunday of Easter (April 28, 2024)

(Serving is always easier when we do it with others)

Sustaining a Mission Lifestyle
by Bishop Chris Giesler

Preaching Text: John 15:1-8

I’ve always been intrigued by the flight safety briefing given by the flight attendants just before take-off.  This is essential, even life-saving information, but we rarely listen.  I realize that the spiel is pretty much the same every time, and frequent flyers have heard it many times. Still, I feel bad for the flight attendants who do this several times a day while almost everybody has their head in a magazine, talking to their seatmate, or they are busy on their phones, which should have already been switched to “airplane mode.”  The part of this presentation that has always caught my ear is when they talk about the oxygen masks that will be deployed should the cabin lose pressure. The instructions say, “If you are traveling with a child or someone who needs assistance, put your mask on first and then assist the others.” For most of us, our first instinct would be to help our child first and then get our mask on.  But as I have learned, in this type of emergency, every second counts, and one must very quickly get their mask on first to be in good enough shape to assist anyone else.  Not getting your mask on first would risk both of you not surviving. 

Relating this to a life of helping those around us, we, too, need to be aware of taking sabbath time to reconnect with ourselves, examine our lives, and ponder God’s presence in all of it.  So, this week, we take time to tend to our souls. Service to others is only possible when we tend to our souls first.  Without caring for our souls, we risk burnout and being unable to sustain our mission for long.  Caring for our souls means reminding ourselves of God’s love for us, God’s presence in our lives, and the many ways we have been gifted for ministry to others.  It also gives us a chance to feel the support of a faith community out of which we can serve. 

In 2008, Dr. Eben Alexander, one of the top neurosurgeons in the US, contracted a rare form of bacterial meningitis that shut down the neocortex of his brain.  The neocortex is the seat of human consciousness; it is the part of the brain that most expresses our personality and energy to the world around us. When the neocortex shuts down, we shut down.   According to Dr. Alexander, as his physical body went into a coma for seven days, his soul made the journey to heaven.  In his book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, he describes what happened to his physical body during this time, as only a neurosurgeon could do, and he explains what he experienced with his soul as he was in heaven.  In the book, he describes that the soul that gives our bodies life and personality remains connected with the sacred throughout our lives but that our earthly bodies are not well equipped enough to sense that connection. Dr. Alexander says that we occasionally have flashes of that holy connection in this life if we only pay attention to it.   Now and then, we have an experience that is sacred, and in that moment, we profoundly feel God’s touch.

Music is one of the ways that I connect with God. Recently, at the memorial service for Bishop Hopeton Clennon, it was during the hymn signing that I most felt God’s presence in the room and in my soul. It was as if the Holy Spirit was enfolding the entire congregation as we sang together.  This gave my grief a holy presence.

Ponder for a moment about the ways that you connect with God. It may be in a Sunday morning worship service, reading and reflecting on the Daily Text for the day, taking a walk in the woods, or watching children play.  This process is unique to each of us.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus describes himself as a vine, and we are the branches. The branches abide in the vine and receive nourishment and life from it. I believe that the number-one mission of our lives here is to find ways to abide in Christ and allow Christ to abide in us. Once that is in place, everything else will find its proper place, including hearing God’s call to serve others more clearly.