July 7, 2024 – Our Stories

Psalm 78:1-7

My people, hear my teaching;

    listen to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth with a parable;

    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—

things we have heard and known,

    things our ancestors have told us.

We will not hide them from their descendants;

    we will tell the next generation

the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,

    his power, and the wonders he has done.

He decreed statutes for Jacob

    and established the law in Israel,

which he commanded our ancestors

    to teach their children,

so the next generation would know them,

    even the children yet to be born,

    and they in turn would tell their children.

Then they would put their trust in God

    and would not forget his deeds

    but would keep his commands.

Our Stories

Thirteen days ago, our family moved into the parsonage, and on Monday, I officially began my journey as your pastor. As I’ve come in and out of the doors of this building and prayed over each pew this morning, I can’t help but think about the stories these walls could tell – stories of the congregation and their families who’ve come before us, of joys and struggles, of faith and doubt. It reminds me of the power of stories in our lives. We all have a story to tell, a unique narrative woven with moments of triumph and challenge, laughter and tears. Today, as we begin our journey together, I invite you to reflect on your story and the incredible ways God has worked in your life.


My story began 43 years ago when I was born on a Sunday morning in Lyons, Kansas, just 33 miles from here. My family is deeply rooted in Kansas and the United Methodist Church, with my dad and granddad serving as Methodist ministers. Today, my mom lives in Sterling, my older brother and his family are nearby, and my younger sister is in Colorado Springs. My wife Nicole and I have two kids – John and Anne.


Growing up, I moved from Geneseo to Maize to Wichita and Salina, where I graduated high school from Salina Central. After high school, I attended Pittsburg State University and studied biology, thinking I’d spend my career in a lab. However, during a summer internship before my senior year, I realized that while I was good at lab work, it did not ignite my passion. That fall, at a campus ministry retreat, I was reading through the stories of Jesus calling the disciples in each gospel, I felt God calling me to go to seminary and pursue theological education.


I wasn’t yet certain about which path to follow: serving in the church, working for a non-profit, doing missionary work, or serving in a campus ministry. I wanted to go to seminary in a place different from where I had grown up. So, I enrolled in Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., where I met my wife, Nicole, on the first day of orientation. The following summer, I worked in Yellowstone National Park, cleaning cabins during the week and leading worship services on the weekend. During that summer, I felt called to serve in the local church.


Nicole and I graduated in May of 2006, were married in June in her hometown in North Carolina, and moved to Kansas to begin our journey as pastors in July. We are both Elders in the United Methodist Church. This is the first Sunday of my 19th year of pastoral ministry. I’ve served churches in Leawood, El Dorado, Berryton, and Topeka. Each place has added a rich chapter to our story—moments of witnessing God’s transforming love and walking alongside others through life’s valleys and mountaintops.


Like many of you, my faith journey is centered on nurturing a deep relationship with God through prayer, scripture, study, and reflection. These practices help me grow in love for God and my neighbor, and I’m always eager to learn and grow alongside you.


Outside the church building, you might see me training for a half marathon this fall or tending to our flower beds. I find joy in caring for my physical body and caring for God’s creation. It reminds me of God’s beauty and strength in our world and lives.


I’m fascinated by how technology can enhance our spiritual lives and community connections. In this digital age, we have exciting opportunities to reach out and support one another in new ways. I strive to live intentionally in all aspects of life, continually seeking ways to embody simplicity and stewardship. This includes small choices like maintaining a minimal wardrobe, which helps me focus on what’s truly important.


But I’m most excited about getting to know all of you. I want to hear your stories, understand your passions, and learn how God works in your lives. Each of you brings unique experiences and gifts to our church family, and I’m looking forward to discovering how we can grow in faith together and serve our community. So, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts, dreams, and faith journey with me as we embark on this new chapter in the story of McPherson First United Methodist Church together.


As we weave our stories together, I’m reminded of the power of sharing our faith journeys across generations. This idea is deeply rooted in scripture, particularly in today’s passage from Psalm 78, which highlights the importance of passing down our faith stories from generation to generation. The psalmist starts by urging us to listen carefully, recognizing that what’s about to be shared is valuable wisdom. This wisdom isn’t new – it’s described as age-old proverbs and riddles handed down over time.


These aren’t just any old stories, though. The psalmist talks about accounts of God’s marvelous deeds, stories of divine power, and wonders that have shaped people’s faith for generations. These stories contain profound spiritual truths that can change lives and strengthen faith.


What’s interesting is how committed the psalmist is to sharing these stories. There’s a sense of urgency, a recognition that these stories shouldn’t be forgotten or kept secret. Instead, they need to be deliberately passed on to younger generations. This isn’t just about preserving history; it’s about ensuring future generations know God’s faithfulness, power, and love.


This theme isn’t unique to this psalm; it echoes throughout Scripture. We see the Israelites setting up stones of remembrance as they cross the Jordan River, the annual Passover meal recounting the Exodus story, and Jesus himself using parables to teach profound truths about God’s kingdom. These examples underscore the significance of remembering and sharing our experiences of God’s faithfulness.


So, what about your story? How has God worked in your life to bring you to where you are today? In what ways have you seen God at work in our church community, through seasons of joy and sorrow, doubt and certainty, victory and struggle?


As we share our stories, we often discover unexpected connections that reveal God’s work in our lives. My story intersects with this congregation in a way I couldn’t have imagined years ago. When I started the candidacy process with the annual conference – one of the initial steps to becoming a pastor – my candidacy mentor was one of the pastors right here at McPherson First United Methodist Church. I remember coming to this building, sitting in these rooms, and having conversations as I explored God’s calling in my life. Little did I know then that these walls would one day become my spiritual home as your pastor.


This connection is a powerful reminder that our stories are intertwined in ways we may not always see. As a congregation, you have shaped me decades before it was announced that I would be your pastor. It’s a testament to how God works through our connections and communities, often planting seeds that will bear fruit far into the future.


The history of McPherson First United Methodist Church is a testimony to God’s faithfulness. For 150 years, this congregation has been devoted to loving God and our neighbors. Your faith and service have remained unwavering through numerous transitions over the years. The impact of your ministry extends far beyond what you might see day to day. Today, we can continue this legacy of faith and good works established by those who came before us, recognizing that our actions today may be shaping future leaders and believers in ways we can’t yet imagine.


As we enter this season of pastoral transition, we’re reminded that change is a constant in our lives. In the weeks ahead, we’ll explore transitions more deeply, drawing wisdom from biblical narratives and insights from William Bridges’ book “Transitions.” This will equip us to approach all the transitions in our lives with understanding and intentionality.


The good news is that God is present in every chapter of our lives. This week, I challenge you to actively seek God’s presence in your daily routine. Identify moments where you feel God’s guidance, then share these stories with someone younger. This fulfills Psalm 78’s call to tell the next generation about God’s wondrous deeds.


When we share how God’s love has touched our lives, we become active participants in the greatest story ever told – God’s ongoing narrative of redemption. Let’s commit to being bold storytellers of God’s grace. Your story matters. It has the power to ignite faith, offer hope, and demonstrate God’s love. As we share our experiences, we’re co-authoring with God the next inspiring chapters of God’s work in our world. Together, let’s make our lives a compelling story of God’s enduring grace.


Will you pray with me?


Loving God, thank you for weaving our stories into your grand story of love and redemption. Please help us see your presence daily, recognize the sacred in the ordinary, and share these moments with others. Guide us as we write new chapters together, always pointing to your grace and faithfulness. Amen.  ~ Pastor Andrew