This past Sunday, like in many UMCs, we celebrated Laity Sunday. We had a great service here, and I was really proud of how everyone contributed to the service. Our lay leader coordinated the service, and gave part of the message about what Franklin Lakes UMC means to him. He gave a very personal and moving message. We had great music from youth and adults, a special children's time, a guest lay leader, etc. The second part of the message was given by Justin Peligri, a 14 year-old member at FLUMC. Justin did a fabulous job, and he said it would be ok for me to post his sermon on my blog. So I'm posting an excerpt here, with a link to the full text for you to enjoy.
"I am very fortunate to be a member of the Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church, because through the church and all of its members, I have found stability. Here, I am embraced week after week with open arms and friendly smiles. It is a place where I have grown in, joy, fellowship, and faith tremendously. Church is my home away from home, and I feel very comfortable here, as I have since we came here. Coming to church every Sunday morning is something that I look forward to every week, and it is something that has influenced my life in many positive ways. Each person that comes to The Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church holds me and protects me, just as branches of a tree protect a squirrel.
It is also important to remember the bigger picture, however. If you are the branches of a tree, then God is the trunk. He is the main root and thread that we all share. Though we may be growing out of different parts of the tree, we are all connected to the same trunk. I think that the fact that we are all linked to each other is a very significant point, one so major that it has the power to reshape the world in which we live in.
Jesus uses the analogy of a tree and branches in John 15, verse 5-7. He says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.”
God will always protect us at the Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church, because we always remain faithful to Him. Our hearts are always open to Him and to other people around us. A couple weeks ago I was sitting outside on the hammock in my backyard. Hearing a sudden cracking in a tree behind me, I turned to look to see was had happened. I figured that due to the wind, the tree was rocking slightly. However, this was not the case. I watched, awed and dumbfounded as a meandering squirrel fell out of the tree landing on the ground with a thump. After the squirrel fell, so did the branch that the squirrel was perched on, obviously too weak for the squirrel’s weight. I am fortunate enough to say that I will never fall out of a tree as he had. Partly because I don’t typically climb in trees. But also because I know that I have a firm foundation beneath me.
At the Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church, I am supported and nurtured, and I know that I will always be protected and held up, no matter how heavy of a burden I may be. If I am a squirrel, you are my branches, keeping me aloft, allowing me to travel from limb to limb, exploring the unknown woods around me."
Justin's sermon was structured with a flow and rich with a content that even some seasoned preachers miss sometimes, and he spoke with ease and confidence. I told him to watch out - with gifts for preaching like that, you never know were God will take you!