Someone recently pointed out an article from the "State Journal" titled "Median Sermon is 37 Minutes." The core information provided for the article came from research from the Pew Research Center. Research information was gleaned from 49,719 online sermons from 6,431 different churches. It was described by the Pew Research Center as "the most exhaustive attempt to date to catalog and analyze American religious sermons."
The article offers great detail about the differences in length of sermons in various Christian church settings - from the Roman Catholic Church to the historically Black Protestant Church. As one might expect, there were vast differences in the "length" of said sermons. Then the article proceeded to offer "explanations" as to the differences.
However, as I came to the end of the article I found something that captured my attention - "in addition to sermon length, the Pew analysis delved into an examination of words and phrases most commonly used by preachers from the different Christian traditions."
What I realized was that the "words" used reveal not only "what" churches believe, but also something about "what" they understand about themselves, "what" they believe about others and the world around them and "how" they experience God in their midst.
So, I started thinking - what "words and phrases" do we use here at Portage Presbyterian in our worship and in the community when we gather together. And what do these "words and phrases" reveal about who we are and what we believe?
What do we think? - What do we hear? - What do we experience?
I offer to you "a partial list" ... "words and phrases" we use, and hear, at PPC.
Grace Peace Forgiveness Community Love
Hope Praise Joy Trust Life Faith
Prayer Church Scriptures Service Worship Mission
Fellowship Thanksgiving Laughter Celebration
God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit
So, what would you add to this list?
For me these "words" provide a wonderful, amazing and hopeful mosaic of the identity, the life, the work, the ministry and the sense of community here at Portage Presbyterian Church.
These reveal to me (and perhaps to you) a community of faith that trusts in God to lead, in Jesus Christ to redeem and in the Holy Spirit to inspire.
These reveal to me a community of faith that values community - and values those with whom we share this community and those with whom this community cares for and touches.
These reveal to me a community of faith which believes that it is "called" into mission - in the local areas and beyond. And that mission is important, even vital to our sense of community and our purpose as community. We really do believe that we have a purpose!
These reveal to me a community of faith that sees this community as a gift of God - a unique calling together of a variety of people into this one "body of Christ" with all of the blessings and the challenges that come with this distinct diversity of stories, journeys, experiences, ideas and opinions.
These reveal to me a community of faith that finds and experiences energy and finds refuge when we are together in whatever place, reason or time we are gathered.
And these reveal to me a community in whom God continues to be present and through whom God continues to be at work in wonderful and amazing ways.
As we move into this new year, and into the 170th year of the Portage Presbyterian Church community, may we continue to "see" how God is working in and through and with us - and celebrate this!
May we continue to "hear" the grace and peace of God in our midst and may we continue to "share" in our words, our actions and our gatherings this same grace and peace of God.
May we continue to "know and trust" that God really is with us now and as the year unfolds.
And may we continue to "be" God's "good news of great joy to all people."
I am grateful and humbled by the opportunity I have been given to share with you as pastor and in this ministry to which God leads us and empowers us together as God's church.
Thanks be to God!