On February 27, 2022, I was the guest preacher at Grace United Methodist Church in Wyckoff, NJ. The following is the sermon I delivered.
It’s always a great and significant honor for me to have the opportunity to be a guest minister. There is something that is very special about standing here at the lectern and sharing the word of God, and my thoughts and perspectives on God, Jesus, and love.
And so much more.
When these opportunities present themselves to me, I am always humbled. I think about the task and the magnitude of it all…
My responsibility to deliver a message that will help explain God’s love and his grace and what he asks of us, for us, and for him.
When I preach, I feel like I am talking to you and Him, and for Him.
The magnitude of all of this always resonates deep in my heart and soul.
I talk to God often. I don’t know if he always wants to talk to me, I am pretty sure he does, but I know I need to talk to him. I ask him for a lot, and he delivers. I also thank him for a lot.
I try to thank him more than I ask of him, but I find myself asking for so much, and not just for me, but through me.
I think this is how many of us pray.
We give thanks, but as we do, we also ask, “Please watch over me,” or “Please take care of (someone),” or “Please give peace to (someone else)”, or “Please help the world receive your love…”
We ask for big things and little things.
Because they all matter.
Right now, I am sure many of us are praying for peace in this world. In so many ways.
And God does hear us. He does. Absolutely.
I pray (which is just another of way of saying that I talk to God) many times a day in many ways.
When things seem dire, I pray more… (I think we all do.)
But I also find time to pray at other times, like when I’m running, or even when I’m pitching in a baseball game. (Maybe I especially need God’s presence at those times.)
All that being said, there is something different, significantly different, for me when I speak about God as someone preaching in a church.
It’s just different.
Speaking of God brings me closer to Him. I feel like he’s here with me as I do this. I feel his presence as I consider and write my sermons and messages.
And I ask him to bless my words and thoughts and to help me do a good job.
See, I am always asking…
Even when I am doing, I am asking.
I ask God for a lot.
One of the special things that comes with preaching is the opportunity to sit (and dine) with Reverend Neville as we discuss my sermon and the direction it should follow.
I love God.
I love Jesus.
And I also sharing deep discussions prior to preaching over a few slices of pizza (and a Pepsi) with Reverend Neville.
One might think that pizza and God and Jesus are things that don’t necessarily go together, but they do… more than one might realize. You see, God is everywhere.
St. Patrick used a clover to represent the Holy Trinity… today I’ll try to show how a pizza in its own way can represent God’s love, goodness, and glory forever.
Let’s begin with the basics.
A pizza is round. It’s made in the shape of a circle.
A circle goes on forever. It never ends. It is eternal.
God is eternal.
We heard this this morning in Psalm 119:
“Your word, Lord, is eternal.”
We come to God through Christ Jesus, our savior.
We do this first through Baptism and then again through Confirmation, and often again as we join and become members of a church, or churches, throughout our lifetime.
When we give ourselves to Christ, we form a bond, a connection. It’s important to remember and celebrate that connection with him as a sacred and holy vow. A vow not unlike a marriage.
We use rings to celebrate our eternal love with another person. Those rings, of course, are in the shape of a circle, round, endless, and eternal.
Just like God’s love.
Boundless, endless, and eternal.
If, in looking at a clover, we can see the holy trinity, three parts, together as one… can we not, as well, see the boundless and never-ending eternal love that God has for us in a ring, or in anything the shape of a circle?
How wonderful it would be if we can see and think about God in many ways throughout the day. How great it is to be reminded that he is with us. Now. Always.
That perfect roundness of a thing as ordinary as a pizza can remind us of God’s eternal and never-ending love for us, for all of us.
A pizza, of course, is primarily made of bread. This connection is an easy one. Let us look to the Book of John (Chapter 6):
In this passage, Jesus reminds his disciples not to “work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
This was also the time when Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry...”
Jesus is the bread of life, the manna that will always fill us… that will always complete us.
If we allow him into our lives, Jesus can fill all our needs. All of them.
With Jesus as a part of our life, we will never be hungry for love, peace, and security.
You know, we look to certain foods, like pizza, for comfort. Jesus also provides this comfort. He fills our needs in many ways, but him to do this, we must seek him out and allow him to enter our lives.
Jesus needs us, he wants to be part of our lives, but we have to ask for him to join us in our daily travels. He have to ask him to help us in our daily struggles.
And we need to remember to thank him for the good things that also come.
Now, for some people, a pizza without toppings just isn’t a complete pizza. People want toppings, some lots of them.
Pepperoni, Sausage, Anchovies, Peppers, Onions, Pineapple, Bacon… these are some of the things that add goodness to a pizza, a completeness to a meal.
If the love of God and Jesus can be reflected in a pizza, then we must also look to those extras as well.
God isn’t just eternal.
Jesus isn’t just the bread of life.
They are more, they are vast, and all-knowing, and all-loving.
There is no one right way to order a pizza and there is no one right way to follow God and to honor and worship Jesus. As we ask more of them, they also ask more of us. We need to find ways to add toppings to our lives, to make our lives richer and more plentiful – in ways to serve God and to honor his love.
Just as the pizza maker, gives his all to making a perfect creation, one that will bring joy and sustenance, so too does God wish for us to work to be our best creation… images of God, followers of Jesus here on earth.
We don’t just serve the Lord in one way, we serve him in many ways, in diverse ways, in ways that bring glory to his Word and which will bring glory to the world.
When we take pride in making ourselves God’s best creations, he delights in our efforts.
Sometimes we stumble. Sometimes we fail.
The pizza burns. The dough fails to rise. The cheese spoils.
We make mistakes. We sin. We need forgiveness.
But we try again to be our best, deriving satisfaction and completeness knowing that we are works in progress as we bask in the warmness that is God’s love.
The trinity can be reflected in a shamrock.
God’s love and Jesus’ blessings can be found in a pizza.
A pizza can be a metaphor for all of God’s love.
We know this because when we look, when we seek… we find.
God is everywhere.
God is with us as we hear this message. He is with me as I share these words – words he helped me write.
To me, a pizza might just be the perfect food. It is, absolutely, the most delicious.
God’s love and Jesus’ strength are everywhere. They can be found in a pizza. When we seek, we find.
God’s love is in the smiles we see, it’s in the hugs we share. It’s in the time we give to others.
God’s love is in our parents, our siblings, or wives, husbands, and families. It’s with our friends and neighbors.
God’s love is everywhere.
We see God’s majesty in the mountains and blue skies. We see his order in plants and beautiful flowers.
We see the purity of Jesus’ love in the snow and in the rain.
God is everywhere.
We just have to open our doors to let God in… and we need to open our eyes to see this goodness reflected everywhere, even in a pizza.
Especially in a pizza.
God Bless. Always.
Let God in.
Open your hearts to the Lord. He will fill you with his sustenance which is all we really ever need.