Laity Sunday in the United Methodist Church focuses on the celebration of the ministry of all lay Christians. A “lay Christian” is anybody who is not a pastor—because we know that the church is in no way all about the pastor. Lay people really do the bulk of the ministry in churches, and from churches, in the world. This celebration of Laity Sunday affirms this, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to have our Conference Lay Leader Sharon Gregory speak to us in worship.
I couldn’t even tell you when I first met Sharon Gregory. It just seems like she’s always been around, and always been involved as a key layperson in the Pittsburgh District and in the Western Pennsylvania Conference. She has been very active in the United Methodist Women. She directed the Pittsburgh District Lay Servant training for 9 years, and since 2010 has been Associate Lay Leader of the Western Pennsylvania Conference (2010-2012) and Lay Leader of the Western Pennsylvania Conference (2012-present).
But beyond what’s on paper, is what’s in her heart, that pours out the love of God. For as long as I’ve known Sharon, she has deeply cared about the United Methodist Church. She prays with eloquence and deep spirituality, always believing the best about what God will do with us and through us. Her faith has carried her through challenging times, to the extent that for those of us looking on from the outside, she barely seems to be challenged—such is the depth of her quiet joy. And she has a profound respect for those of us who serve as pastors, even as her service as a layperson is just as engaged, just as involved, and just as focused.
Sharon is someone I really cherish being around, because no matter if life has been a celebration or a challenge, she is steadily faithful, reliably supportive, and emphatically convinced that God indeed is not finished with us yet. I know that when she speaks to us about love, as God would have us love, she knows of which she speaks.
NEW TESTAMENT 1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.