The After-Sermon

by Rod Smith

I hope you noticed “The After-Sermon” title.

I cannot promise you “Love Boat” or “Who Shot JR?” in print, but I can assure you that almost every Sunday after I have preached at First Presbyterian Church, and after our dogs have dragged me through Trojan Forest and around Baker Park, I am going to write to you in The Courier-Times.

This morning I popped in to see Terry at the New Castle post office to get a post office box number for two reasons: since a young child I have ALWAYS wanted one, and so you can drop me letters in the mail as it was done in the old days.

I can’t wait to see who lands a letter in the mailbox first.

It’s PO Box 808!

Why? Well, I see you as being part of our larger congregation, even if we don’t know each other. I want to care about you and hear about what you love about New Castle and about life in general. I want to know what’s bothering you, hindering you. I want to connect with you week-by-almost-week.

When I say “being part of our larger congregation” I don’t mean First Pres. I mean all the pastors in the region. I know you probably have a church and I am sure you are well pastored. But, I am sure that if you asked every pastor in the region, he or she will tell you he or she thinks similar thoughts to those I have just expressed. I did not seek their permission and nor do I want to speak for them, but I think I can safely say we want to care about you if you are part of our respective church communities or not.

It’s in our bones.

It’s pastor-DNA.

My plan with “After-Sermon” is to write about what it’s like to be new around here – which you are for at least the first 40 years – and what it means to try to be a good neighbor. I also want to write about pastoring a community of people who are far more loving, cooperative, accepting than I find it possible to be without a lot of prayer, determination and focus.

For today, I want to teach you a new word: siyabonana.

It’s a Zulu word.

It means “we see each other” but it’s the kind of seeing that is deeper than looking, deeper than surface. It’s more than a casual glance and it is mutual, two-way, at least.

Let’s practice saying it.

It’s easy. The “siya” part is just like any Hoosier would say “see ya.” The “bonana” portion requires you to say “banana” like the Queen of England. If you can’t quite get that, pretend you are Prince Charles or Prince William or Sir Winston Churchill asking for a banana and you have it: See-Ya-Bonana.

I want this column to be about “Siyabonana.”

I want you to see me.

I want to see you.

I invite you to write to me and I have specifically chosen the old way of paper and an envelope and a stamp because it’s the way many people would still very much like to communicate.

No, I do not want you to leave your church and come to ours. No pastor worth his or her salt wants people to move from one church to another.

No, I am never going to ask you for money.

No, I am not going to ultimately ask you to sign up for an expensive trip to Israel or a bus ride to Noah’s Ark Park which I think is somewhere in Illinois, maybe Ohio or Missouri.

There’s no plane trip or bus trip or monetary tip up my sleeve.

There’s no book, no video series, no catch, no small print. I may recommend a book on occasion but it won’t be mine.

How do I know?

I don’t have one.

“The After-Sermon” will try to be encouraging, insightful, and sometimes about serious matters like parking meters and donut moguls and then sometimes it’ll be about matters of faith.

Since I am on the topic, if you don’t attend church anywhere, then, yes, I want you to attend church somewhere.

Anywhere.

Why? Well, because being in a group of people who care about you and about whom you can care is good for all of us, by golly, it’s good for America. It’s good for the whole world.

Caring does wonders for people. You already know that. Mutual caring makes us all better people. Mutual caring makes us all better Hoosiers, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, it makes us Better Everythings.

You don’t need me to tell you that. Being with other people often and caring for each other, as churches usually try to do, is soup for the soul.

Have a fabulous week.

I’ll see you in the paper next week if we don’t first run into each other at the Farmers’ Market or Cafe Royal or maybe at the Kroger’s self checkout!

Siyabonana.

Rev. Rod Smith is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in New Castle.

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