great banquet 200In a recent sermon, I shared how the Spirit was evident and visible to me during my Great Banquet weekend.  The Spirit was untamed and clearly calling our church forward to move into action.  My experience was different - and also meaningful.  The Banquet is not the same as it used to be.  Was my experience like many of yours?  Probably not.  Was my experience a reflection of how the Banquet was intended to speak when it was created?  After lots of listening - no.  Has the Spirit used the Banquet in the current form?  Yes.  You all experienced that in the worship service following my Banquet weekend.

Many of you know that I like my calendar, my notebook or planner, my water bottle, and my pens.  Luckily, I got to keep some of those life staples at the Banquet - my water bottle, notebook, and pen.  While I didn't have my calendar, I had enough of my essentials to bring some relaxation.  I'm sure you aren't surprised that I loved the regimen of the Banquet schedule as it kept things moving.  We didn't stay with a particular topic or experience long, unless it was a time of introspection and listening for God's voice.  In a world that is nonstop and busy, and where the expectation of constantly being busy is affirmed, we "guests" were unable to control the schedule.  Nor did we have any awareness of the length of an allotted time.  It was oddly comforting to know that I was not in charge of my own schedule for a while, and all of you extended grace for the things that didn't get done around the office.  It was a gift to me to receive this grace, as well as several others.

I love God and I love people.  My Banquet weekend was a weekend of both.  I met some remarkable women.  There are many things about my weekend that I found deeply meaningful.  I strengthened existing relationships and forged new friendships.  My table was a small representation of how God intends for faithful people to be together, even though we are at different places on our faith journeys - growing through conversations with our different theological perspectives, coming together in worship, and caring for one another.  I grew in my faith as I encountered a God who is beyond my limited understanding - a God who speaks through the voices of others who are brave enough to listen to differing perspectives.

When I arrived at First Presbyterian Church in Madisonville, I began to understand the love for the Great Banquet and its intended purpose.  The Banquet is an important part of First Presbyterian.  Many of you have stated that you felt we needed a deeper connection and collaboration between the church and the Banquet.  We have now formed a Great Banquet Committee comprised of people in our congregation who love the Banquet and want to see it continue to thrive.  After all, since we have nurtured it for over 40 years now and have seen it through many transitions, it's natural that some things can evolve more quickly than all of us can keep up with.  Adding in new people, varying faith traditions, an unwieldy Spirit, and adaptations, we now have evolved into Madisonville Great Banquet 2.0.  The purpose of our Great Banquet Committee is to work with the Board of Directors of the Great Banquet to strengthen a deeper connection and collaboration as we move forward, and to ensure that the Banquet remains true to its original purpose.  I've read all the leadership manuals and talk outlines, and have talked to Rev. Jack Pitzer, the creator of the Great Banquet.  I grew as I experienced my own Banquet weekend and then as I sat through most of the second women's weekend.  God is at work in the Madisonville Great Banquet and God is at work in the Madisonville First Presbyterian Church.  There are many of you who help in the kitchen, serve meals, set up beds, and work behind the scenes.  This is awe-inspiring!  If you don't already participate, please pray about serving on a team.

Y'all, our God is a big God, one who is omnipotent and beyond what we can ever fully comprehend.  It is through awe and amazement that we begin to recognize that God is God, and we are not.  God gets to be God, and we get to love God and love people just as Jesus commanded.  Thanks be to God!

Pastor Jen, Great Banquet #194, Table of Sarah (Clap)