Sunday, August 13, 2023

Punctuated by Prayer

Jesus found respite, relief, and empowerment in prayer, and we can, too. His miracles, preaching, teaching, and healing were often punctuated by intervals of prayer. Jesus often withdrew from even his closest friends to spend substantial amounts of time praying. Sometimes he shared these moments with a few others, but usually, they were spent in solitude. These were personal focused times apart with God, in addition to the ongoing constant communion Paul referenced in First Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” 

Prayer is at least as much about our listening as about our speaking, about what we hear, at least as much as about what we say. At the Transfiguration, Jesus’ disciples heard God speak from heaven during their shared prayer time with Elijah and Moses, as worded in The Message, “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”  Jesus pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount just before giving the Lord’s Prayer that God already knows what we need before we ask, so we don’t need to “use a lot of meaningless words,” as it says in the Good News Translation.  

We know that God already knows what we are thinking about, but do we know what God is thinking about – what God is trying to communicate to us? Prayer is an opportunity for us to engage with our Creator and receive the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised she would give us. Listen for the “still small voice.” Perhaps if our activities were more punctuated by prayer, then “oh ye of little faith” might become “oh ye of a little more faith.”


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on August 13, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.
11th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Kings 19:9-18, Psalm 85:8-13, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

More Than Enough for Everyone

God has provided more than enough food for everyone in the world to have plenty every day, and yet world hunger is a persistent issue. It doesn’t matter how much food is available if those who control the distribution refuse to allow it to be shared fairly. What if we think about sharing the world’s food resources as being sacramental, perhaps as an extension of the Sacrament of Holy Communion?  

World hunger is, and never ceases to be, a spiritual issue. It only becomes political when it is used as leverage to deprive people of their fair share of the world’s nutritional resources. In the Judgement of the Nations in Matthew 25, the nations are gathered and divided according to how they have treated their most vulnerable populations. The pronouncement of the One sitting on the throne of glory begins as phrased in the New Revised Standard Version:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. (Matthew 25:24-35 NRVS).


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on August 6, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 55:1-5, Psalm 145:8-9 & 14-21, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21,

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Saturday, August 5, 2023

What do These Have in Common?

Sower, tares, mustard seed, leaven, hidden treasure, pearl, net, scribe – What do these have in common?  Each is one of eight parables presented in succession in Matthew 13. These, along with all the other parables of Jesus, are short figurative analogies similar to fables, which, like the lengthy allegories and legends throughout the Old Testament, are intended to communicate timeless spiritual messages. The enduring nature of Biblical teachings is owing in general to their inspiration by the Holy Ghost and in particular to their innate quality of universal, eternal application. They are as old as old can be, yet fresh and new each time they cross our minds.

The wisdom of the Scriptures is in the discernment by which they are applied to any present situation. The imagery of the Bible provides a limitless cache of metaphors through which the Holy Spirit continuously speaks as she guides us, as Jesus promised, “into all truth.” God’s love, as demonstrated in Jesus, invites the broadest possible perception, in contrast to any efforts to narrow and restrict our understanding of the Scriptures to arbitrary boundaries. What do these parables of Jesus have in common? They are like windows into Heaven. 


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 30, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Monday, July 24, 2023

Growing Together in God's Field

God loves everyone and wants everyone to live together in peace and harmony. Our part is to reflect God’s kindness. If there is any judging to do, God will do the judging. If there is any sorting to do, God will do the sorting. No matter what we think of ourselves or others, God’s expectation is that we will be respectful and cooperative, loving others as Christ has loved us.

Everyone is a child of God. Everyone has a place in God’s world. God’s own Spirit communicates her love to us and to all, helping us to know that we are her daughters and sons. One of the great sacramental messages of Holy Communion, as practiced in our United Methodist heritage, is that it is the Lord’s Table around which we gather. Likewise, it is the Lord’s World we live in, and God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus to be our savior. Today’s Bible readings invite us to grow spiritually right alongside everyone else, and let God work out the rest.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 23, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image: Pixabay User Pexels. “Wheat Field,” 2016. Pixabay.   20 July 2023. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Sowing Seeds of Kindness

Jesus demonstrated what it means to sow seeds of kindness everywhere he went. His criticisms were reserved for those who worked against kindness. But even those criticisms were intended to protect the vulnerable while persuading the powerful to be more kind.

There is a view of Scripture that is harsh and condemning, but this is not the view of Jesus. Jesus’ view is kind, gentle, and forgiving. There is a view of Christian faith that expects large numbers, that quantifies spirituality, that measures faith in material terms. But Jesus’ expectation is measured in spiritual terms. The growth Christ looks for is the spiritual growth of each soul. The expectation is that we, like Jesus, will spread seeds of kindness wherever we go, that we will tend to those seeds and nurture them, and that we will trust God with the results. If we believe everyone is made in the image of God (and most people do believe this in one form or another regardless of their religious associations), we can also believe that every person God has made is already on some sort of spiritual journey. Rather than thinking of people as primitive and misguided souls disconnected from any relationship to their Creator, we can instead relate to everyone as spiritual beings, united with their Creator and growing by grace. We are invited to emulate Christ in planting the proverbial seeds of kindness. 


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 16, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image Photo by Larry Jacobsen. “Seed and the Sower.” Cheyenne Botanical Gardens. “A bronze statue of the Seed and the Sower – a Prairie woman – sowing seed in her garden.” Creative Commons License. Flickr.  10 July 2023.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Invitation to a Refreshing Partnership

Acceptance of Jesus’ Great Invitation, “Come unto me,” is not defined by the books we carry, the verses we quote, or the organizations we join, but by the way we love.

Normalization of prolific mass shootings and protected gun violence, rollback of women’s rights, violent rhetoric against our LGBTQ community, and racist adjudication of the death penalty are among the most recent setbacks for humanity in general and our nation in particular. As wearisome as our resistance may sometimes seem, we remember the encouragement of St. Paul through the Galatians, as expressed by Charles Gabriel in his hymn, “Let us not grow weary in the work of love.”

Christ invites us to join together in an eternal partnership, overcoming the heartbreaks and injustices of the world by ministering the healing kindness and goodness of God’s love. How refreshing it must have been to see and hear Jesus exemplify and teach, revealing the true nature of God in contrast with what those who were professing traditional orthodoxy were practicing and proclaiming! How refreshing it is for us today to hear the Great Invitation as an opportunity to join Jesus in making this world a better place, even as we look forward to the life of the world to come!   

Isn’t this what we want: Peace in our hearts, peace in our land, peace around the world? Imagine how it would be if God’s love were perfected in our personal lives and relationships. Imagine how it would be if our community, state, and nation were ultimately governed by perfect love. Imagine an entire world brought together in peace and love for everyone. This is the vision of Christ for the whole of humanity that we would love one another as Christ has loved us. Jesus invites you, me, and everyone else to join in a divine partnership of spreading peace and love. Isn’t that refreshing?

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 KJV).


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 9, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image Photo by Pexels. “Teamwork,” 2016. Pixabay. 4 July 2023.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Kindness is the Best Offering

Here again, we are confronted with the kindness of the New Testament juxtaposed with the harshness of the Old Testament. Through the dichotomy between the two, we recognize the many vast differences between how people think of God and how Jesus reveals God. One of the greatest differences is what people think God expects of us versus what God actually expects of us. This dichotomy is not only between the Testaments but also within the Old Testament, as prophets and psalmists highlight the goodness, gentleness, and mercy of God in stark contrast with some of the other writers of the Hebrew text.

Jesus taught us to interpret all the Scriptures through God’s perspective of love instead of through the perspective of fear. Faithfulness to the Biblical text includes attention to the voice of God as revealed through the love of Christ. Even through the most troublesome passages, the Bible speaks to us of God’s loving presence and providence. 

Christ teaches us to emulate the goodness and kindness of God. That’s what we are invited to focus on, even though there are plenty of distractions in the world and even in the Bible. John wrote, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” The eternal life of God’s heavenly realm is bestowed on us as a free gift. By following Christ in kindness and trusting the kindness of our Creator, we are participants in the emerging kingdom of God “on earth, as it is in heaven.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 2, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image Photo by Jana Wersch. “Give Water,” 2015. Pixabay.  30 June 2023. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

God is in the Response

There is no satisfactory explanation for most of the tragedies and hardships of life. Some are caused intentionally. It is completely unfathomable to me as to why anyone would want to cause harm to others for no reason or even for selfish reasons. Others are caused by the weather or other acts of nature whose causes are completely mechanical according to physics, and people just happen to be in their way. Many are caused by accidents whose prevention can sometimes be anticipated but often only speculated about in hindsight.

 God is not the cause of our disasters, as the superstitious often assert. Rather, God is in the response. Where family, friends, and neighbors jump in to help with immediate needs, God is working through them. Where groups, institutions, and agencies back them up with longer-term assistance, God is working through them. Where we are able to be any part of these forms of response, God is working through us. We are so grateful for all the ways God helps us and others in all the different times of need. God is in the healing response.

 Our prayers are a vital part of our response to all degrees of misfortune. Prayer enables us to center our thoughts and feelings in the midst of any storm. The Holy Spirit meets us in prayer, and she calms our spirits, reaffirms God’s love, and reminds us of God’s promises. We connect to Creation in prayer, especially to those for whom we are praying in the difficulties they are facing. Through prayer, we begin to discover additional actions we can take to follow through in the answering of our prayers, some specific and some general, some in word, some in deed, and some in continuing prayer for ourselves and others.

William Batchelder Bradbury wrote in the first song my Dad taught me to play on the piano,

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless
And since He bids me seek His face
Believe His Word and trust His grace
I'll cast on Him my ev'ry care
And wait for thee sweet hour of prayer


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 25, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image by Mystics Art Design. “Nature Reserve,” 2014. Pixaby.  13 June 2023. 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Father's Day Spirit

Today is Father’s Day, and perhaps should be celebrated as a form of “Parent’s Day” since Mother’s Day is also celebrated as the “Festival of the Christian Home.” In today’s readings, Sarah and Abraham were informed, in style somewhat reflected thousands of years later by the Annunciation, that, unlikely as it seemed, they were to become parents.

The Bible invites us to think of God in part as our Heavenly Parent. Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father which art in heaven.” Paul taught that the Holy Spirit within us creates a parent/child relationship, and she “calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” as phrased in the New International Version, on our behalf. The paternal term is meant to communicate relationship, not gender since God is neither female nor male and is both feminine and masculine. Our Creator is our eternal Parent. The Scriptures use both motherly and fatherly imagery to communicate that we are the beloved children of God. Paul reminds us that our Heavenly Father “proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us,”as the New Revised Standard Version says. As illustrated by Jesus’ “Parable of the Prodigal,” our Heavenly Parent is always watching for ways to reconcile and deepen the relationship with us.  

In my father’s sermon notes for today's reading from Romans, Dad wrote:

God’s love says, “I love you unconditionally. I’ve always given myself to you. What is your response?” God’s love does not depend on our virtue or achievements. The nature of God’s love is such that it does not leave us as it finds us. And it does not use us up. It refreshes and renews.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 18, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Invitation to Christian Discipleship

 We and all people are offered the same personal invitation of Christ as Matthew and others in the Bible, “Follow me.” It isn’t possible for us to follow Jesus physically, but his first followers only were able to do so at the very beginning of their discipleship. Most of their lives were spent following Jesus spiritually, just like we are invited to do. We feel the Holy Spirit moving within and among us. Her love stirs our hearts, drawing us ever more deeply into our relationship with Christ and each other. Just as Jesus promised, she teaches and guides us to respond to the impressions she makes in our hearts and minds, constantly inviting us – “wooing us to heaven,” as Philip Bliss wrote in his hymn, “Wonderful Words of Life.”

The invitation to Christian discipleship is not a one-and-done demand but a continuing attraction, new and fresh every day. I hear the invitation of Jesus not like a command but like the lyrics of John Denver’s love song with the same title, “Follow Me.”  Don’t you just want to take Jesus’ hand?


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 11, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Fully Inclusive Trinity

Today is observed as Trinity Sunday throughout much of Western Christianity, celebrating the unity expressed through the doctrine of the Trinity. Today is also observed as Peace with Justice Sunday across The United Methodist Church. A reminder in an article, “What is Peace with Justice Sunday?” on the denominational website, says, “Our Social Principles call us to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict.”[i]

Inclusiveness is about justice, and justice is about peace, and peace is about love, and the Bible says, “God is love.”[i] The Bible starts with the Creation narrative by providing imagery to support the oneness of all creation as a reflection of the oneness of God. On the night he gave himself up for us, Jesus prayed in John 17 that we all “may be made perfect in one,” or as phrased in The Message, “the glorious unity of being one.”[ii] The “greatest law” Jesus quoted[iii] begins,

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: [and continues] And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.[iv] [Jesus combined this law from Deuteronomy with another from Leviticus as the “second greatest commandment:”] Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.[v]

The prophet Amos, in his role as the mouthpiece of the Lord, declared in the Good News Translation,” Let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.”[vi]

June is Pride Month,[vii] and yesterday our church participated in a ministry of presence at the Paducah PrideFest as one of the sponsors for the event. We also had a booth for providing information about Briensburg United Methodist Church and the Reconciling Ministries Network. We circulated among the crowd to meet people and share the love of Jesus. LGBTQ inclusiveness is a justice issue, not only in society but in the Church. It is a great and harmful injustice that people of the same gender are not allowed to be married in their own churches or by their own pastors in The United Methodist Church. It is a great and harmful injustice that practicing homosexuals are restricted from being ordained or appointed as pastors in The United Methodist Church. LGBTQ Christians are encouraged to participate fully in all other ministries of The United Methodist Church. We gladly recognize all the ways The United Methodist Church is actively and prominently engaged in many social justice issues worldwide. Still, we advocate for those harmful, restrictive, and unjust rules added to our Discipline as recently as 1974 to be removed this year at General Conference.

Every month of the year also has several days set aside for awareness of other important social justice issues. Health care, poverty, hunger, racism, gender inequality, gun violence, domestic violence, war, child abuse, and human trafficking are only a few of the countless grave injustices worldwide. Our individual power is limited in addressing these enormous spiritual challenges. Still, the Holy Ghost’s power to unite us has repeatedly proven to make a remarkable difference for the victims of injustice. The second of three United Methodist baptismal vows is to “accept the freedom and power God gives [us] to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”[viii]

The prophet Micah famously preached in Micah 6:8 in the Good News Translation, “The Lord has told us what is good. What [God] requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.” Working together in harmony and peace for justice and unity is what Jesus prayed in John 17 and what the prophets, apostles, and church leaders from Augustine to Wesley have preached. God continues to call women and men to preach social holiness in our generation. The more fully and inclusively we unite in Christian love and service, the more we reflect the oneness of the fully inclusive Trinity. Paul wrote to the Ephesians as phrased in the Good News Translation:

Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all.[ix]


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 4, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

[ii] John 17:23 (KJV, MSG).

[iii] Matthew 22:36-40.

[iv] Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (KJV).

[v] Leviticus 19:18 (KJV).

[vi] Amos 5:24 (GNT).

[vii] Wikipedia Contributors. “Pride Month,” 2 June 2023. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.  2 June 2023.

[viii] The United Methodist Church. “The Baptismal Covenant I.” The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 88. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992. Print.

[ix] Ephesians 4:2-6 (GNT).

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Empowered to Minister Forgiveness


Today we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Some days of celebration on the Christian calendar come at times when current events in our daily lives make celebration difficult. The first Pentecost was celebrated shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension at the beginning of a great persecution of Christians that intensified over several hundred years. Yet, we, as they did, celebrate that God is with us in the midst of all our heartbreaks and sorrows to strengthen and guide us. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the “Comforter,”[i] and we are so very thankful for the comfort she brings in difficult times. Francis Bottome wrote in his hymn,[ii]

The Comforter has come, the Comforter has come!
The Holy Ghost from heaven, the Father's promise given;

 The first empowerment of the Holy Ghost specified by Jesus after the Resurrection is the power to forgive sins. Paul further addressed in his writings the additional powers to minister spiritual gifts and to bear spiritual fruits. Together, these powers enable us to learn how to keep the commandment of Jesus, to love others as Christ has loved us,[iii] and to serve the world in the ministry of God’s unconditional, universal forgiveness and love.

 God’s dream always was to pour out the Holy Spirit on all humanity, inclusively and without exception, as Peter explained on the Day of Pentecost, citing the prophet Joel. We are empowered individually and collectively, as Jesus promised at his Ascension: “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”[iv]  

 Our acceptance of this empowerment is a personal decision we make in our relationship with God.

Excerpt from the manuscript and audio of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on May 28, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ E-Book | PDF | MP3 Audio ]

[i] John 16:7 (KJV).
[ii] Francis Bottome. “The Comforter Has Come,” 1890. Hymnary. Web.  26 May 2023.
[iii] John 13:34.
[iv] Luke 24:49 (KJV).

Image: Gerd Altman. “Pentecost,” 2018. PixabayWeb. 27 May 2023. 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Christ Ascended Into Heaven


We celebrate the Ascension of Jesus as the completion of his transformation from the One in whom dwelt “all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”[i] to the One who “filleth all in all.”[ii] But he didn’t leave us behind. Christ remains within and among us through the Holy Spirit and includes us all in the Church Universal, “which is his body, the fullness of [the One] that filleth all in all.”[iii]

During the forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared in many forms. Since the Ascension, Christ continued to appear in different ways in the Bible. Throughout the history of the church, many have reported various types of visual apparitions of Jesus. Most Christians can testify that we have experienced some sort of spiritual connection with the risen Christ. Methodism commemorates John Wesley’s Aldersgate Experience, about which he wrote,

I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.[iv]

Manuscript and audio of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on May 21, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

Complete Sermon: [ E-Book | PDF | MP3 Audio ]

[i] Colossians 2:9 (KJV).

[ii] Ephesians 1:23 (KJV).

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] John Wesley. “Entry for May 24, 1738.”  The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M. in Four Vols, Vol. I. London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1907. Digitized by the Internet Archive, 2017. Web. 15 May 2023.

Copley, John Singleton. “Ascension,” 1775. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Web. 19 May 2023. Painting, Image. 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Mother's Day Spirit

The motherly attributes of God as well as the godly attributes of motherly women, are highlighted by the Mother’s Day spirit. Pope John Paul I, acknowledging the traditional patriarchal references to God as Father, added, “Even more, God is our Mother.”[i] Motherhood is even more spiritual than it is biological. We do greatly honor and are so very grateful for our biological mothers. We also honor all the women who manifest the motherly spirit, whether or not they are biological mothers. Both motherly and fatherly persons reflect the Deity. Juliana of Norwich wrote, “Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother.”[ii]

Manuscript and audio of the sermon preached by Rev. Bill Lawson on May 14, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

Complete Sermon: [ E-Book | PDF | MP3 Audio ]


[i] David McBriar. “The Feminine Face of God,” 2021. The Franciscans. Web. 10 May 2023.

[ii] Juliana of Norwich. “God is Our Mother,” 1416. The Holy See, reprinted from Revelations of Divine Love. Web. 10 May 2023.

Bouguereau, William-Adolphe. “Maternal Admiration” 1869. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 May 2023. Painting

Sunday, May 7, 2023

A Place for All Y'all

I recently had a dream about a great banquet table around which people of all the different religions in the world were gathered in groups according to their various faith communities. Each congregation had brought the sacred foods of their religion to this common table. For example, the Christians brought the bread. The wine or grape juice was furnished for all by the unseen Host. 

As everyone received their cup of wine or juice and started to eat, we began to realize that the sacred food each group had provided was intended by the Host to be shared with all. We had all come to the table thinking that our food was only for ourselves – only for those who shared our beliefs and practices. We discovered that each group’s sacred food was part of a great shared meal, like a giant potluck dinner or maybe a wedding feast… perhaps what we might think of as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. And the Christians brought the bread. 

Internet Archive: [View, Download, or Listen]

I woke from the dream and immediately associated it with the sermon I would be preaching today. I thought of the words from Psalm 23, “Thou preparest a table before me.”1 I thought of the promise Jesus made in today’s lectionary Gospel reading, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

As I continued to reflect on the dream between then and now, the vision only kept expanding in my mind. The ideas were fed in part by the context of the festive atmosphere at the place where we were staying, whose motto is “Love all, serve all.”3 Cheryl and I were surrounded by people from all over the world. One spectacular group from India was celebrating a week-long wedding party with participants wearing their traditional attire of brilliant colors and beautiful designs. Mesmerizing music of their culture filled the air. They were happy and friendly. One couple gladly shared with us a little bit about what they were doing. 

My waking dream continued to unfold as I imagined the vast array of spiritual music from each of the religions gathered around the banquet table, flowing together harmoniously. I remembered personal experiences of multi-cultural worship services where the types of bread from various countries and cultures were placed together on the Communion table, then shared during the Sacrament. I thought there must be multicultural versions of the various foods that are sacred to all the other religions as well. I could almost smell the blending of aromas wafting among us. 

I thought about all the various languages of the earth represented in this vision. Each brought to the table their sacred texts, with favorite passages memorized for sharing their faith. The Christians were quoting John 3:16 and 1 John 4:7-8, and others were quoting representative verses of their Scriptures. I thought about the sacred arts that have graced humanity, transcending all its spiritual communions. I remembered visits to the worship spaces of other faiths and sacred spaces I’ve only seen pictures of and others I might not even be able to imagine. Still, the ideas keep flooding my mind with a magnificent sense of unity in diversity. 

I have been so excited to come here this morning and preach this sermon. I love being pastor of a congregation that shares a passion for inclusiveness and harmony. It’s like Jesus prepared a place for us – this place. 

But, as John Lennon expressed in “Imagine,”4 we’re not the only ones. We are part of the Reconciling Network of United Methodist congregations and other groups and individuals who share this dream 2 along with other like-minded people in our denomination and other people all around the globe. Norman Rockwell conveyed a similar vision in his painting, “The Golden Rule.”5 Martin Luther King, Jr. powerfully shared his vision for inclusiveness in his speech, “I Have a Dream.”6 John Wesley began his sermon “Catholic Spirit” by writing, ”It is allowed… that love is due to all mankind, the royal law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," carrying its own evidence to all that hear it.”7 St. Paul captured the yearning of humanity for unity in his letter to the Ephesians as he wrote, 

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect [person], unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.8 

The aspirational prayer of Christ embraced the highest possible vision for humanity as Jesus prayed in John 17, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”9 

The places Christ is preparing for us are just what we need.  

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2 KJV)

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. (John 14:2 NRSV) 10

This passage from John’s Gospel contains the kernel of many conversations, sermons, articles, and books. The first six verses are especially comforting at times of bereavement. Yet the original context for this promise is the death of Christ and his return to those who were continuing to live. He would be returning to take them to their dwelling places in this life as well as in the life of the world to come.

Christ is preparing places for everyone, not just in heaven but every day in this life, too.  There are many kinds of dwelling places. My mother used to keep “Mansion Over the Hilltop”11 on the piano, and I can still see and hear her sing it every once in a while. The imagery of “many mansions” and “many dwelling places” communicates the many types of physical and spiritual places God makes available to us.

Cleland Boyd McAfee wrote in his hymn,12

There is a place of quiet rest…

A place where sin cannot molest…
A place of comfort sweet…
A place where we our Savior meet…
A place of full release…
A place where all is joy and peace…

Near to the heart of God.

Christ has prepared a place of full inclusion in the life and ministry of the church.

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5 KJV)13

Reginald Fuller, in his book Preaching the Lectionary, suggests that this passage is perhaps designed to inform new converts of “the nature of the community into which they are being admitted.”14 Like the grand idea of America as a melting pot, Christ, as we say in our baptismal covenant, “has opened [the Church] to people of all ages, nations, and races.”15 Our Inclusiveness statement, adopted unanimously by the church council five years ago, says,

We invite everyone to share fully in the worship services, life, ministry, and leadership of  Briensburg United Methodist Church, inclusive of age, race, nationality, gender, LGBTQ, theology, politics, and legal status.16

I loved hearing this excerpt from the Coronation Prayer of King Charles, 

Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief, that together we may discover the ways of  gentleness and be led into the paths of peace.17

Christ prepares a place of wholeness, love, and mercy for all people.

Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies' sake. (Psalm 31:16 KJV) 

Look on your servant with kindness; save me in your constant love. (Psalm 31:16 GNT)18

It is not a far stretch to add to the examples Jesus gave in Matthew in his parable about the Judgement of the Nations, something like, “I was homeless, and ye gave me shelter, a refugee, and ye gave me sanctuary.”  “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these… ye have done it unto me.”19 Mercy and kindness urge nations and their citizenries to emulate Christ in preparing places for everyone, especially their most vulnerable populations.

Most people want to live in peace and harmony with each other and accord everyone the freedom and rights, and fairness they want for themselves. In other words, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”20   Sacramentally, we express that longing as we gather around the Eucharistic Table.  Gordon Thompson 21 taught in a class on Sacraments that for us as United Methodists, the mystery is not only what is happening on the communion table but also around the communion table in the hearts and minds of those who gather. We share this point of intersection, that we love God and desire to live in peace and harmony with each other.

We are invited to network with others who share the vision of Christ “that we all may be one.” We are invited to meet those who join us at each table we gather around in those places Christ prepares for us every day. We are invited to embrace what other people bring to the table, even as we share with them what we bring to the table.

And the Christians brought the bread. 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.


A Place for All Y’all
Manuscript of the sermon preached by Rev. Bill Lawson on May 7, 2023, 
at Briensburg United Methodist Church
Bible Readings for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Revised Common Lectionary
Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14



Maicon Fonseca Zanco. “World Globe,” 2016. Web. 8 May 2023. Image.

Revised Common Lectionary. Copyright © 1992 Consultation on Common Texts. Web. 4 May 2023.

The Revised Common Lectionary. Vanderbilt Divinity Library. 2008. Web. 4 May 2023. 


© 2023, William H. Lawson, Jr. All rights reserved. Unaltered copies may be freely circulated in electronic and print media. For other uses, please email the author at

Bible quotations are from the King James Version and are in the Public Domain, except as otherwise indicated. 

Scripture quotations marked (GNT) are from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version - Second Edition, Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission. 

Scripture quotations marked (NRSV) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 


 1 Psalm 23:5 (KJV) 
 2 John 14:2 (KJV)  
 3 Hard Rock Hotel Motto. “Love All, Serve All.” Hard Rock Hotels. Web. 6 May 2023. 
 4 John Lennon. “Imagine,” 1971. John Lennon Official Website. Web. 6 May 2023. 
 5 Norman Rockwell. “Golden Rule,” 1961. Painting. Norman Rockwell Museum. Web. 6 May 2023. 
 6 Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream,” 1963. National Public Radio. Web. 6 May 2023. 
 7 John Wesley. “Sermon 39 – Catholic Spirit.” John Wesley Sermons. ResourceUMC. Web. 6 May 2023. 
 8 Ephesians 4:13 (KJV) 
 9 John 17:1 (KJV) 
10 John 14:2 (KJV, NRSV) 
11 Ira Stanphill. “Mansion Over the Hilltop,” 1949. Word to Worship. Web. 6 May 2023. 
12 Cleland Boyd McAfee. “Near to the Heart of God,” 1903. Web. 6 May 2023. 
13 1 Peter 2:5 (KJV) 
14 Reginald H. Fuller. Preaching the Lectionary, p. 83. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1984. 
15 The United Methodist Church. “The Baptismal Covenant I.” The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 88. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992. 
16 Briensburg United Methodist Church. “Inclusiveness Statement,” 2018. Web. 7 May 2023. 
17 King Charles III. “King Charles’ Coronation,” 2023. The Telegraph. Web. 6 May 2023. 
18 Psalm 31:16 (KJV, GNT) 
19 Matthew 25:40 (KJV)5 
20 Matthew 22:39 (KJV) 
21 Thompson Family. “Obituary of Rev. Dr. Gordon G. Thompson,” 2009. Mayes Ward Dobbins Funeral Home. Web. 7 May 2023.