If you weren’t with us in worship today, you missed a very special service. We had about 20 people, so it was very intimate, and Margarita was not one of them so we sang Christmas carols without accompaniment. The choir sang, but to the CD we had be rehearsing with instead of the piano. We took in two new members and since we were such a small group everyone got to come forward and personally welcome them to the Summerfield family. I ask you to join us in welcoming Karen Greil and Gary Peterson as the two newest members of Summerfield. Whether you were absent due to weather, illness, or holiday travel, please know that you were in our prayers. We look forward to seeing you Tuesday at 7:30 for our Christmas Eve service if you are able to join us.
Today’s shining star is the dean of the chapel when I was attending seminary at BU. Dean Thornburg was such a gentle soul and one of those professors with whom I felt like I had an actual relationship. The school of theology worshiped in the chapel twice a week and I also attended community lunch there once a week, which Dean Thornburg hosted. But the way we got to know each other most intimately was through a preaching class I took which he taught. It was a very small class, there were probably about half a dozen of us. For the most part we preached to each other and offered feedback to strengthen each other. It was in that class I probably learned the most practical things for ministry, like how to make a p sound in a microphone without getting a big burst of air. Dean Thornburg gently guided us into being better versions of our raw selves. Possibly the most challenging part of his class was that he made us give ourselves a final grade and defend why. Then we were graded not only on our work for the semester but how accurately we graded ourselves.
A person who can make you look at your own strengths and weaknesses with love is rare. Before Dean Thornburg it was not a style I had ever been exposed to. He made me a better pastor, parent, and person not just by teaching me how to make a p sound and how to prevent my voice from getting too nasally, but by modeling how a person can bring out the best in another.
God has given all of us many gifts. If you are spending time with someone who makes you feel worse about yourself more than they make you feel better, that is not a healthy relationship. It has been 15 years since my time with Dean Thornburg. It has taken me a long time to learn to cultivate relationships that are healthy for me. But I am getting better. It is awfully hard to grow when all you can see is the negative. We need to be fed by nurturers who can guide us down the road to Christ-like perfection. I pray that you are finding those relationships in your own life. And as many of us are preparing to spend the Christmas season with people that we have long histories with, I encourage you to remember that you are more than what broken people see in you. You are a magnificent creation of God, blessed to be a blessing.