Notes from Pastor Brad’s last sermon at Church by the Sea

Since Pastor Brad is leaving us in early July, some were caught off-guard that this was his last sermon in our church. He has played a

Pastor Brad Coleman in Oaxaca

leading role in our rotating pulpit, with as many as seven or eight men ( and now women) sharing the teaching responsibilities, a practice we launched in the ’90s with Brad’s encouragement.

As Billy Tarka remarked after his message, the person we saw on and off the stage is identical, a testimony to his authenticity. A shepherd’s heart, a gentle spirit, and sound, Spirit-led thinking all endeared him to us.

He prefaced his sermon by injecting a note of humor. He imagined a docudrama studying the life of the church with various Hollywood actors chosen for the staff. He chose Goldie Hawn to play Kelly, Matt Damon for Sam, and he even had an aged, balding Brad Pitt from Benjamin Button for himself.  Choosing Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies to play Bonnie elicited a few gasps, however.

He began his message in Philippians 2 with the observation that we have been called into an abundant life in Christ, so that we are truly invited to live life with a capital “L.”

When Paul admonishes us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, he quoted Barclay’s observation that this fear does not cause us to run from God, but this fear and trembling should cause us to seek Him more.

“Paul doesn’t say to work for your salvation,” Brad noted. “He says to work out your salvation.”

The important thing is that God provides the flow and the energy of His life working in this process. “It’s not about us following rules, but following a ruler,” Brad said. “We don’t follow His teachings as much as we follow after a living Savior.”

“If our life is not grounded in Him, it is grounded on circumstances. You can’t start building the foundation of your house when you see the storm on the horizon.”

Paul tells the Philippians to do all things without grumbling or disputing. When Paul says don’t grumble, Brad said, he doesn’t mean to deny or escape the reality of human suffering.

“We will have trouble in this world,” Brad noted. Ten thousand years into eternity we will look back at this time when there was trouble in the world. “We should live above our circumstances, not under them.”

Brad pointed to the inspiring example of the Day family, and their response to the suffering of their son Cody in his six-year battle with cancer. In the midst of their suffering, they are “shining like stars in the universe.”

The archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero — assasinated in 1980 as he raised the chalice during the eucharist– was quoted by Brad at the end of his message:

“We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”

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