Monday, November 26, 2012

Pulpit, Meet Brick Wall

There’s a cartoon in my files.  The caption reads “Preaching 101.”  The image is of a preacher standing behind a pulpit situated directly in front of a brick wall.  Every preacher feels like that from time to time.  I learned on Sunday that not only preachers feel this way.

I was greeting people in the foyer of the church after the early service.  The sermon was the last of a series I’ve been doing on David’s life and faith.  I felt like I had offered a stirring and challenging call to “a deep and abiding relationship with the Lord God Almighty in our best moments and in our worst moments too.  It’s about relationship—whole-hearted, sold out, give and take, listen, pray, and respond, day in and day out relationship with this mysterious, sovereign, large, unpredictable God of the Bible whose love makes the sea look shallow and whose grace makes the world’s greatest philanthropist look like a cheapskate.”  It was stirring and challenging to me anyway.  So one of our most committed followers of Jesus shook my hand and said, “Good sermon … but it probably won’t do any good.”  Pulpit, meet brick wall. 

What’s a preacher to do?  We can’t just give up—even if it feels like we’re making all the progress of using an ice pick to sculpt a granite statue.  God called us preachers to this, right?  “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).  This is our job—in my mind anyway, our most important job.  So I guess we just keep at it, trusting that God’s word always gets something done whether we can see immediate evidence or not, trusting that some of the seed will fall on fertile soil and produce an abundant crop in God’s good time.  No wonder Paul threw the word “patience” in his admonition to us preachers.

We rarely see quick results, but I’ve been at this well over 30 years, and the crop does come in.  Sometimes in people and places you’d least expect.  So, let’s keep at it, brothers and sisters.  Even if it’s not doing anybody any good that we can see, it’s at least doing more good in us than we may realize.  There’s a story attributed to the Jewish author, Elie Wiesel.  The story came to mind when our church member offered his commentary on my sermon.

A just man comes to Sodom hoping to save the city.  He pickets.  What else can he do?  He goes from street to street, from marketplace to marketplace, shouting, “Men and women, repent.  What you are doing is wrong.  It will kill you; it will destroy you.”  They laugh, but he goes on shouting, until one day a child stops him.  “Poor stranger, don’t you see it’s useless?”

“Yes,” the just man replies. 

“Then why do you go on?” the child asks.

“In the beginning,” he says, “I was convinced that I would change them.  Now I go on shouting because I don’t want them to change me.”

Preach the word, brothers and sisters, in season and out of season.  God is doing more in others than you can see just now.  And just as important, God is working that word into you.


By the way, if you’re interested in reading the sermon that “probably won’t do any good,” you can find it here: By the way, if you’re interested in reading the sermon that “probably won’t do any good,” you can find it here:  Click on media > Sermon Archives > Nov 25, 2012

1 comment:

  1. John, your sermons have done me lots of good over the years!! Keep shouting!