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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pastor Appreciation Month

2015-10-18 Mark 10:42-45 Pastor Appreciation Month


It's a little awkward for me to be the one saying this, but October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

I wonder who came up with that.

Something's wrong with the world when pastors get a whole month and mothers only get one day.

I like feeling appreciated.

So do the people who wait your table at lunch.

And the people who pack your lunch.

And the people who pick the vegetables that garnish your lunch.

Everybody could use a month of appreciation, or more.


When you think about it, there are legions of people who deserve your appreciation this month.

People who do their jobs with or without pay, with or without benefits, with or without the support of their employers, or parents, or ex-husbands, with or without guarantee that they'll have their job tomorrow.

They don't do the work for the appreciation.

Appreciation is great, and even a little goes a long way.

Feeling appreciated will make you work 80 hours a week when you're paid for less than half that.

Or not paid at all, something a lot of retiree volunteers have learned.

They don't do the work FOR the appreciation.

Just ask public school teachers.

They do it because they appreciate the chance to provide appreciation in the form of income for their families,

In the form of hope for the future,

In the expression of a longing to care for their craft and the people it serves.

Money goes in your wallet; appreciation goes in your heart.

Whatever the work, when your heart's in it, the job turns into a calling.

You do it not because you GET appreciation; you do it because it's a way to SHOW appreciation.


October 20, this Tuesday, is our church's birthday.

58 years ago, this little community church that met in a basement, then a dance club, that had Sunday School in a motel room, then a "tiny house" – they called them trailers back then –

this little church was born because a little group of people wanted to show appreciation to God and to serve their community.

Which is sort of what Jesus said makes the church… the church.

So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

We have a lot of pastors in this church.

Every church has a lot of pastors.

And most of them don't have microphones or get to wear (as one of the kids once said of me) "important shoes."

("Creature James with the important shoes.")

Look through the stained glass of any church, and you'll see pastors to appreciate every day of every month.



Katie the Casserole Lady.

That's how she's known in their church.

Katie bakes casseroles.

Has a freezer full of them.

Everyone also knows Katie's casseroles aren't exactly the best the world has ever tasted.

Katie knows it, too.

Sometimes they're a little crunchy.

So what she lacks in cooking talent she aims to make up in quantity.

Her casseroles may not be all that good, but they're enormous.

Katie is delivering a casserole to a home in the church that's just experienced a death.

She knows their refrigerator is already full, but time and training tells her,

"Take a casserole. Take a big one. People can never have too many casseroles."

As she rings the doorbell, Katie looks at her offering.

Despite its size, it's just a little thing, she thinks.

She'd like to do something more, but what?

As she waits on the doorstep, Katie wonders, in the grand scheme of life and death, what does one casserole mean?


Elmer doesn't get out much any more.

Between his arthritis and a few completely undeserved black marks on his driving record, he stays mostly at home.

He is old and getting older.

Meanwhile, his church is getting younger all the time.

When he gets the newsletter, he looks for the names of his contemporaries, and each month, it there are fewer.

He looks at the birthday list.

Some months he doesn't know a soul.

So many kids.

Most of them don't know Elmer, wouldn't know him if he walked up and bit 'em.

But he sends every one of them a card on their birthday, just the same.

Birthdays just wouldn't be birthdays around the church without your Elmer card.

Sitting at his kitchen table, he carefully seals the envelope of a card to a 5 year-old he's never met.

And Elmer wonders, it's such a small thing.

What does it mean?


David is 16.

So he questions everything.

His parents tell him something to do, and he questions them.

His teachers give him homework, and he questions its value.

His girlfriend says she loves him, and he wonders if she thought she was texting someone else.

His best friend tells him he needs an antidepressant.

David tells him he just needs some assurances and to get off his back.

David is waking up because the Communion tray is being passed down the pew and his mother is elbowing him to get ready so he doesn't drop it.

David takes a piece of the bread.

He eats it by inhalation, the same way he eats everything.

A few minutes later a little cup of grape juice comes into his fingers.

Without a thought, it's gone, too.

He looks around at the people up and down the row.

They're all so quiet.

They're praying.

David is puzzled.

A little bread, a little juice.

Not even enough for a good snack.

And still everyone takes it so seriously.

What does it mean?


One morning, the disciples were wondering what this church thing was all about.

They thought it might mean fame and fortune, and a slew of appreciation, preferably in this life, but assuredly in the next.

And Jesus told them, "You know what, guys? It's not about you.

"It's about whether you choose to appreciate the people.

"It's about whether you choose to appreciate the people across the aisle.

"The people who don't care about your fancy building with a functioning HVAC system.

"The people who need some appreciation – a hug, a handshake, a meal, a card."


That's what church is about.

Giving appreciation away like it's worth more than diamonds.

And you know what? It is.


A casserole.

A card.

A piece of bread.

A cup of juice.

What are they?

In the grand scheme, what do they mean?

They are little things.

Overlooked by most.

Unknown to but a few.

But to the people who receive them – to the people who accept them -- they are tangible gifts from God.

You can hold them in your hands.

You can hear them for yourself.

You can taste the goodness that someone else has prepared.

For you.


YOU may not be able to cure the sick, or restore sight to the blind.

You may not be able to set captives free.

The gifts that you might bring to the table may be limited to little things, things that some people might take for granted.

And the gifts that you have received might likewise be limited in their size and scope and grandeur.

But to someone who's hungering and thirsting for God, what others might take for granted can be taken as granted prayers.

A casserole, a card, a piece of bread, a cup of juice – these little things can speak the language of the Spirit.

These little things can whisper the secrets of God to your heart.

But even more, they shout appreciation to the people whose greater needs you serve.


So when you find yourself giving a hug, or a word of encouragement, or taking someone a super-sized casserole because you just want to do something,

know in your heart that it does mean something.

It's appreciated because it shows you appreciate someone else more than yourself.


Happy Birthday, Lake Hills.

You've got this pastor's full appreciation.

Appreciate this very, very good place you've got.

And then, go, and give away what's inside.