Hi there. My name is Jeremy Shank. I am a local licensed pastor in the West Ohio Conference of the UMC. I have been added to the Unsettled Christianity blog as a contributor. I blog mainly for the purposes of working out my sermon material for Sunday morning. Below is a message I preached back in 2012 upon arrival at my, then, new appointment. Hope you enjoy and I’ll have fresh material as we go forward.

There’s a first time for everything

Formal introductions can be painful, stressful and just downright uncomfortable.
And, not at all because of the people you might be meeting for the first time.
Just because, it’s difficult walking into a new setting or relationship and not knowing what those people will think of you.Will they like how I am dressed?
Will they take one look at me and think ‘I don’t like this person’ ?
Will they like my family?I think of the first time I met my wife’s family.

She brought me home to meet the family over a holiday break during her sophomore year of college.
I sat in a chair while she caught up with her family and talked.
Nobody really said much to me. I just sat there.
Kind of irked me a little bit.
In my mind I saw this as a time of formal introduction.
Their chance to get to know me and who I am.
And, I really liked this girl, so I really wanted to get to know them.

Introductions are rough.
The Rev Dr Randy Stearns was an instructor of mine at MTSO and taught my class on evangelism. He spoke a line that will stick with me . He said, “Some people are just not going to like you.” OUCH!

That’s just how it is. Maybe it’s the way you’re dressed. 
Maybe they just take one look at you and think, ‘I don’t like this person’. 
Nothing you can do about it.

Man that hurts!
You try to make a good impression and they don’t like you, sometimes for no good reason.

Paul was writing to the Corinthians for the first time.
With all the emphasis we put in our culture upon ‘first impressions’ I wonder if Paul and the people of his time thought about any of that.

1 Corinthians 1
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

Ok. Normally when we pick up a book in our culture, there is a preface, an introduction and a nicely printed jacket around the book that goes into much detail about the author.
Where he/she went to school.
What kind of degrees they earned.
How long they have been doing the current work they are invested in.
Their spouse, their kids, even info on the family pet.

“Hi, I’m Paul. Apostle of Jesus Christ. God sent me.”

It doesn’t get much more simplistic than that.

Well, it’s usually about this time in my blog entry that I go see what Webster’s has to say on the matter.
Webster’s rolled the word back to it’s basic form from ‘introduction’ to ‘introduce’.

Definition of INTRODUCE
transitive verb
1: to lead or bring in especially for the first time
2 a : to bring into play
b : to bring into practice or use : institute
3: to lead to or make known by a formal act, announcement, or recommendation: as
a : to cause to be acquainted
b : to present formally at court or into society
c : to present or announce formally or officially or by an official reading
d : to make preliminary explanatory or laudatory remarks about
e : to bring (as an actor or singer) before the public for the first time
4: place, insert
5: to bring to a knowledge of something

As I begin to play with the definitions here, I want to stay focused on Paul and why he makes so many of the introductions in his letters so simple.
Is it because he has so much to say that he doesn’t bother with a long intro? Maybe.
I’m leaning towards the idea that Paul never felt he truly had to explain himself to anyone.
There are places in Paul’s letters where he goes into deeper detail about himself.
But, when he does talk more about himself, it’s usually to make some point about Christ.

“I’d like to introduce myself, but more importantly, I’d like to tell you about what Christ has done in my life.”

So, as Paul writes for the first time to these Corinthians, he doesn’t spend a lot of time on himself.
The focus should not be on his credentials, or his education, or who his rabbi was in Egypt.

“I’m an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent by God.”
And, that’s all you need to know.

And more over, it’s as if Paul doesn’t need the Corinthians to go around the circle and introduce themselves.
He already knows who they are.

1 Corinthians 1
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is who I am, this is who you are, now lets get down to business.

This sounds like an almost harsh way of getting to know someone.
I have colleagues in the ministry here in the United Methodist Church who can come off this way.
I don’t want to listen to you ramble on with your stories. Just get to the point.

It should be noted here for historical purposes that Paul had already visited with the Corinthians around 52 A.D.
He went there and visited and worked among them and then wrote them a letter some time later around 54 A.D.
Maybe this is why his letter starts off the way it does.
They should know who he is.
They should know who they are in this picture.
They should know that Paul is God’s apostle and they are the “holy people”.

And, if they don’t know that, they are going to know it by the time they get done reading Paul’s letter.

Paul will begin to ‘introduce’ to them the idea that God has brought them to a new life in Christ.
That God has given them gifts and called them to do ministry.
He will introduce them to the greatest gift of all.
He will lay before them the emphasis of following Christ and not a man.
He will speak to them of what is yet to come and the ability to live in the grace God provides here and now.

Maybe this is the first time they are ever hearing these things.
Maybe they have never truly understood what God’s purposes are for them.
Maybe God called Paul to this for that very purpose; to introduce them to Christ and what this new life involves.

Recently, I got to meet with the Pastor-Parish committees of the Thornville & Pleasantville United Methodist churches.
I am going to be heading there in July of 2012.
My hope is that they know what my purpose is in coming to them as their new minister.
My hope is that they already have some idea of what God wants for them in their respective areas for ministry and mission.

And, if they don’t, they’re going to understand it by the time I get done working there.

You might be feeling as if I cut a story short earlier.
I was explaining about my now in-laws and how I felt a little left out during our first meeting.

I remember my now wife asking me how I felt the first meeting went.
I told her I felt kind of awkward because nobody really said much to me.
So, she went and told her folks and they graciously had me in for dinner the next week in an effort to get to know me.
And, buddy, they went out of their way, especially her dad.

In the midst of our conversation he left the table and was gone for a bit.
When I looked up he had come back.
With a pair of the ‘Billy Bob Teeth’ in his mouth.
He leans over his daughter’s shoulder (who did not see him come in)
And, (In his best southern accent) “Well hey there deary, I want to thank you for coming to dinner tonight.”
My now wife was thoroughly embarrassed.
The rest of us were rolling.

I found out what I was getting myself into after I was introduced to it.
And, I married into it, anyway.

Best decision I ever made.

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