June 30, 2014

By Pam Ekey

“The best is yet to come,” Mark Sheets declared at the Sunday morning service of worship and remembrance. He suggested that sometimes we set our expectations too low and forget that God has promised the best is yet to come. Sheets, pastor at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, delivered the sermon in a service that was inspiring and uplifting.
    
He recalled that as a boy of 12, he accompanied his family on an ocean cruise. During the day, he and his brother were allowed to run all over the ship, but the family gathered each night for dinner together. The menu had many delicious entrées to choose from, and it was possible to order things that were not on the menu, as long as the ingredients were available in the kitchen. Faced with that extensive menu of possibilities, Sheets recalled that every night he ordered a hot dog, French fries and cold milk. On the last night, as the waiter whisked away his empty plate and silverware, he placed a fork back on the table. Sheets tried to get the waiter to take the fork, but the waiter said, keep the fork, the best is yet to come. Soon the waiters brought out great trays filled with Baked Alaska for each diner.
    
Too often in church we are willing to settle for what we know and are comfortable with – the hot dog and French fries – rather than trust God that the best is yet to come. 
    
“Why don’t we say that more often?” he asked, “Why don’t we think the best is yet to come? Is life so good we can’t expect any better?”
Maybe pastors are in the dream appointment and can’t think that it can get any better. Or the church is doing well, growing, with vibrant groups and outreach, and you think it can’t get any better. Or at the other end of the spectrum, a church is struggling with problems and declining membership, and it wonders if the best is yet to come. “I can’t help but wonder if the people who haven’t met Jesus are just as confused,” Sheets said, “How can you not think the best is yet to come? Aren’t you the ‘heaven is for real’ people? Doesn’t it get better? they ask.”
    
Sheets said the Bible tells us the best is yet to come. Revelation 21 describes a new heaven and a new earth, a description of the best that is yet to come. In verse 4 it says that God will wipe every tear from our eyes, death will be no more. Mourning and crying and pain will be no more. “If that reading doesn’t help us believe the best is coming in the next life, I don’t know what will. It gives me hope that we will be reunited with those who have gone from this life to the next,” he said.
    
As a people of hope, we can expect that the best is yet to come now, in the present, he said. The Bible records many instances of God’s active presence in the world. “The best is yet to come is a right now thing. God has been actively involved in the present since before I was born,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves if we truly believe in a future with hope,” he added.
    
We set our expectations for worship too low when we do not expect that the best is yet to come. “If we can’t figure out something,” he said, “It is because we haven’t seen it, we haven’t heard it yet. But the God who has seen it all from the beginning can see that the best is yet to come.”
    
“If I allow myself to narrowly define passionate worship so that all the details line up, I wonder who I am hurting,” he asked. “I wonder if it is what we bring to the table, rather than what we get from worship that makes passionate worship,” he continued. Perhaps my focus should shift to what God is going to receive from me rather than what I am going to receive from God so my expectations about worship are raised. 
    
As a people of hope we can assert that the best is yet to come and God has got it under control.
    
During the service the names of Missouri Conference clergy who have died in the past 12 months were read as a bell tolled for each one. Clergy included: C. Richard Blount, Dennis Carroll Bowling, Gary K. Brown, Peter T. Burks, William Butts, Jr., James S. Kabler,  Carroll Clark, Gene E. Cole, Dennis R. Craft, Robert E. Darby, Paige Morris Detlefson, Sharon Kay Garfield, John E. Gregory, Sr., Lawrence L. Holt, James S. Kabler, William R. Radford, Hubert G. Robertson, Edward D. Robertson, Eloise Marx Shoults, Frank Stever, Daniel Edward Stratmann, and David A. Wyatt.
    
Deceased spouses in the past year include Melba D. Akers, Margaret Allen, E. Wayne Asher, Maxine Nora Breeden, Audra Warren Browne, Martha Lee Butts, Judith T. Darby, Bessie Alice Eisenhauer, Judy Carol Hafley, Velma Susan Harmon, Leonard L. Jamerson, Cyrus S. Keller, Helen Pinson, Phyllis Geraldine White, James Bliss Wilder,Jr., Gloria Gene Williams, Fern B. Wright, and Doris Blanche Zacher.
    
From the Mozambique Annual Conference, Rev. Titos Panzela Nhancale and a clergy spouse, Regina Simelane Mabunda, were also remembered.