August 7, 2019
“How to Listen to a Sermon”

"If preachers decide to preach about hope, let them preach out of what they themselves hope for."
- Frederick Buechner

I have been preaching (almost!) weekly for more than thirty years and it has been the most rewarding (and demanding) part of pastoral ministry for me—as it is for most ministers. I have never lost sight of the privilege I have been given to “wrestle with the Word” during the week while others are off pursuing their vocations and careers—or doing the work they have to do to make ends meet. 

However, preaching in 2019 is challenging—not just because of the polarized political situation in our country—but because people are generally less familiar (than in past generations) with biblical and theological language and concepts.  

This is not because people are less faithful or uninterested in learning these things. It primarily has to do with the fact that a “Christian-ethos” no longer predominates within our larger culture—and this is not necessarily a bad thing (although some are quite alarmed by it!). The “conventional” white-Christian version of this widely shared “ethos” was used to promote a host of negative things: patriarchy, racism (white supremacy), and aggressive nationalism (of course, it is still being used for these things by some! See political polarization above!). [Note that these things are called “idolatry” in Reformed Theology].

But none of these things are rooted in the teachings of Jesus. In fact, Jesus (standing in the Jewish prophetic tradition) was against these things.  

The “Jesus ethos” is actually rooted in a radical empathy and compassion for others.” He recognized that the only way to overcome the human penchant for tribalism—and the resulting (unending) conflict caused by tribalism—is a profound acceptance of others as they are (this is what loving ones neighbor means). As one of my clergy friends has put it, “The “Good News” isn’t “Good News” unless it’s “Good News” for everyone—no exceptions.”  

The Jesus-ethos is also concerned with the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—not just the so-called “spiritual” aspects of life (whatever that means). This means that the Christian community (at its best) is always working to eliminate those things in our collective life together that diminish the fullness of life for others (discrimination in all forms, unequal educational opportunities, poverty, etc., for everyone—Christian and non-Christian alike).

The result is that the Christian faith is political—not in a red or blue sense—but in a common good sense. As we pray in the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday, “Give us this day our daily bread …” We pray that everyone will have “enough” to meet their needs, and our work is not finished until that is a reality for everyone. (This is what the Bible means when it speaks of justice).

So, my job is to (try to) preach in a way that elicits greater empathy and compassion in the minds and hearts of listeners, so as to encourage the living out of the Jesus ethos in church, community, and world.  

My experience is that those who have suffered great loss, struggled with significant illness, experienced great love, and/or spend regular time listening for God’s voice (in Contemplative Prayer) intuitively understand the Jesus ethos. And what gives me hope—and what sustains me in ministry --is that there are always people (in every congregation) who want to live more deeply into this reality.  

Sermons, then, should be viewed as the start (not the end) of an open-ended conversation (informed by Scripture, Theology, and Reason) about how we (as a community of faith) might better live into the Jesus ethos.

It is, of course, impossible to faithfully preach the Jesus ethos without challenging conventional wisdom and current cultural/political assumptions that are at odds with the Jesus ethos (the best preachers do this with gentleness and humility because we are also preaching to ourselves!).  

Thus, the takeaway on those Sundays when a minister may say something you don’t agree with—or even may make you angry (we actually do not try to do this intentionally!)—is not to immediately assume that the clergy person does not know what they are talking about (he’s too liberal!; she’s too conservative!). Rather, to ask yourself: “What is he or she trying to get me to think about? And why am I reacting this way (hope, joy, peace, reassurance, contentment, agreement, disagreement, anger, discomfort, unease, doubt, fear, etc.). What can I learn about myself and others in this moment?

This is how we grow. This is how we become more like Jesus . If this happens for some—even in small ways, I have been a success.

Scott Kenefake 
Interim Pastor       
Blessing of the Backpacks
All children and youth (preschool through 12th grade) are invited to bring their backpacks and join us for a blessing on Sunday, August 25th during our worship service! As your child prepares to start school, First Presbyterian Church wants to support them as they begin a new year. As we pray for their education and all school year activities, backpacks will be blessed, and they will receive a reminder that God is with them - wherever they are!
WSOC 9 School Tools Project Collection
FPC will be collecting for the WSOC 9 School Tools project to benefit students and teachers in Cabarrus County Schools and Kannapolis City Schools. Collection dates at FPC are July 28 - August 18. The collection barrel may be found in the Fellowship House.

Teacher requests include: Pencils, inexpensive headphones, composition books, notebook filler paper, copy paper, glue sticks, black Expo markers, index cards, tissues, and Lysol/Clorox wipes. All donations are sincerely appreciated!

The Cabarrus County sponsor is the Concord-Afton Sunset Rotary Club. For more info, contact Susan Smith at or at 704-723-1189.
First Presbyterian's Cub Scout Pack 3 Open House
Pack 3, First Presbyterian's Cub Scout Pack, has been re-established and will be hosting an open house on Tuesday, September 3rd.

Pack 3 will be re-starting with Lion and Tiger Cub dens. As such, rising kindergarten and first-graders and their parents are invited to join our Pack 3 Leaders and Scouts at 6 pm in the Youth Activity Room (Third Floor of the Will Young Building) to talk about this year's Cub Scouting program.

This program is open to member and non-member families, so please spread the word! Contact Chip Clark with any questions (704-791-2511).
Sign-up Links
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Sanctuary Flowers
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sanctuary flowers please click here
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during the year .
Youth Newsletter
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about all events related to youth who are in 6th-12 grade.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16      
Rev. Lynne Keel preaching

Friday, August 9
9:30 a.m. Adult Literacy Tutoring
Sunday , August 11
9:00 a.m. Summer Choir
10:00 a.m. Worship
Monday, August 12
11:30 a.m. AA
7:00 p.m. Boy Scout District Roundtable
Tuesday, August 13
10:00 a.m. Adult Literacy Tutoring
7:00 p.m. Boy Scouts Troop 3
7:00 p.m. Session
Wednesday, August 14
7:30 a.m. Men's Bible Study
Friday, August 16
9:30 a.m. Adult Literacy Tutoring
Sunday, August 18
9:00 a.m. Summer Choir
10:00 a.m. Worship
Monday, August 19
11:30 a.m. AA
Tuesday, August 20
10:00 a.m. Adult Literacy Tutoring
7:00 p.m. Boy Scouts Troop 3
7:00 p.m. PW CT
Wednesday, August 21
7:30 a.m. Men's Bible Study

Church Report
Worship Schedule
Our summer worship schedule will continue through September 1st. Our worship service will be at 10:00 a.m. each Sunday .
Summer Choir
If you are interested in singing in our Summer Choir, please come to the choir room on the 3rd floor of the Education Building from 9:00 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. Summer Choir is open to children, youth, and adults of all ages. We would love to have you!
Congratulations to Andrew and Kristyn Beam on the birth of their daughter, Hallie Lane Beam born July 25, 2019, in Boston, MA. Grandparents are Norman and Carol Beam..
The sympathy and condolences of the congregation are extended to the following families:
Jane Harris Nierenberg, who died July 23rd in Davidson, NC and
Benjamin Hugh Flowe M.D, who died on July 31st.
Please keep these families in your prayers for peace and comfort.
Congratulations to Katherine Barefoot and Steven "Collin" Scott whose marriage was celebrated on August 3 in our Sanctuary.
Chuck Bibby - Families in Need
Sue Davis - Families in Need
Deborah Johnston - Memorial Gardens
Martha Bess Lawson - Memorial Gardens
Jane Nierenberg - Families in Need, Fellowship House
Mary Kent Weaver - Memorial Gardens
Martha and Jones Yorke - Memorial Gardens
Reed Adkins - Backpack Program
Aiden Clark - Backpack Program

The Banner Newsletter
During the summer the newsletter will be printed on the following dates:
August 21, August 28
August 9 - Mary Anne Ritchie
 August 10 - Guner Atkinson, Julie Connelly, Margaret Irvin
August 11 - Sarah Moffitt, Brian Todd
August 12 - Tom Hoskins, Rebekah Niblock
August 13 - Parket Cain, Mary Beth Eubanks
August 14 - Robin Hayes, Virginia Shelley
August 15 - Jonathan Blackman, Rowan Churchyard, Dan Johnson, Ellis Sheridan
August 16 - Mary Katherine Ewart
August 17 - Maxson Terwelp
August 18 - Carol Hovey
August 19 - Debby Brown, Chelsea Green
August 20 - Robert Fulghum, Adeline Fulton, Carie Irving, Franklin Niblock IV
Scott Kenefake
Interim Senior Pastor 

Associate Pastor 
for Care and Mission

Associate Pastor
for Christian Formation
Director of Music and Organist


Suzanne Russell
Church Administrator

Financial Secretary
Heath Ritchie
Maintenance Superintendent

Director of First Kids

Church Hostess

Wedding Director
Contact Info
First Presbyterian Church

70 Union Street North
Concord NC 28025 

Mailing Address: 
PO Box 789 Concord NC 28026-0789

Church Office Hours: 
Monday - Thursday, 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Closed Friday
The Commons Prayer Room Summer Hours:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday/Thursday/Friday - Open for Scheduled Groups
Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday mornings for FPC

Memorial Garden:
(980) 621-0719
36 Spring Street SW
Concord NC 28025
Garden Hours: 
Tuesday - Saturday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Closed Monday