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Props for her sermon

Inspired preaching by the Rev. Karen Brown draws the REvangelism Conference to a close

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Karen Brown (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Karen Brown, whose sermon on Wednesday brought the REvangelism Conference to a rousing and joyous conclusion, told viewers near the beginning of their time together that they’d need three props to get the most out of what she had to tell them.

Here’s what was needed, Brown said: a shoebox, a bar of soap and a fork.

Brown, who chairs the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People as well as the Commission on Reconciliation for the Presbytery of Baltimore, instructed the 150 or so people registered for the conference to decorate the shoebox like a coffin and fill it with words including “I can’t,” then bury it in the backyard or, if they like, on church grounds. Brown even offered a suggested funeral liturgy: “Friends, we are gathered today to remember I Can’t. I Can’t has departed this life after a dispute with her brother, I Can. She is survived by Defeated, Devastated, Uninspired, Not Worthy, Pessimism, I Never and I Will Think About It Tomorrow, as well as her extended family, Manipulate, Agitate and Instigate.”

“Bury I Can’t if you want to stand on the mountaintop,” Brown advised viewers. “Bury I Can’t and say, ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

The bar of soap is for use hiking down to the valley following a mountaintop experience such as the three-day conference, which was offered by Theology, Formation & Evangelism.

“After I walk up the mountain, I am hot and sweaty and dusty. I’ve got to be at my best when I go and give the good news of the gospel,” Brown said. “We need to wash away some of the stinkin’ thinkin’ and bury those words in in a coffin too. Bury the dirt and the distractions. I just know,” Brown said, her voice rising with excitement, “that God is about to do a triple quadruple thing in my life. God is going to show up and show out.”

“The final thing you need, church, is a fork,” Brown said, relating the story of the woman near death who asks her pastor to include a fork in her coffin. “Why’s that?” the pastor asks. “Every time we have a meal at church,” the woman tells her pastor, “they tell you to keep the fork because dessert is coming. The best is yet to come.”

“Your best is tomorrow,” Brown told viewers, “when you go and share the good news of what you learned at this conference.”

Brown’s text was Isaiah 52:7-10, which begins with these famous words: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”

“I know folks need to have good news today. Many people need to know they are loved and important and not forgotten, heard and sane,” Brown said. “Does anyone need to jump and shout because of who God has been in your life? God has given me the opportunity to stand on the mountain — but praise the Lord, our work is down in the valley, spreading the good news of peace and salvation.”

Brown asked viewers to “get out of the church” and use their happy feet to “walk the street. Wherever the people are, that’s where you go.”

As during Monday’s opening worship, the service Wednesday was greatly enhanced by quality musicianship under the direction of Phillip Morgan, music director at Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, SDOP coordinator, punctuated the musical offerings with his inspired percussion.

‘Wherever the people are, that’s where you go.’

“Go out with your happy feet,” Brown told those gathered during the benediction. “Take these ‘8 Habits of Evangelism’ and eat them, drink them and breathe them. Go to sleep, wake up and do a marvelous thing for God, for how beautiful upon the mountains will your happy feet be as you proclaim the salvation of God to all the world.”

“May the God who created us, Jesus the Savior who saved us, and the Spirit that keeps us be with you and all you hold dearly today, tomorrow and until we meet again. Let the church say, ‘Amen!’ Thank you, Lord, and thank you, Jesus! Amen.”

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