It's been awhile since I've preached a sermon and not ended it with rolling my eyes...so here's the latest. A special thank you to lawyer-pastor-friend Brion, whose ,if I'm not mistaken, probably made it into more than just my sermon. Thanks Brion!
I have a pastor friend who used to be a lawyer. And he says that the biggest differences between being a pastor and being a lawyer is how the game is played. Being a lawyer is all about winning and losing; you argue a case in front of a judge: someone wins and someone loses. You end up settling before something ever goes to trial: whoever gets the most money out of the deal wins. Knowing where you stand in the lawyering world is really easy—you’re either a winner or a loser. Being a pastor, he says, being in the kingdom world is exactly the opposite. In God’s world there is no winning and losing…there is simply living. There isn’t someone getting all the glory and someone ending up a failure, instead there’s all of us crazy people thrown together, living together in relationships with God and with each other. We’re not winning or losing, we’re simply called to play the game.
We certainly know a lot about calls in the church, don’t we. I remember the beginning of our’s. ..when I stood here in front of you answering all your questions, wondering what kind of people that you were, wondering what God in store for us. After our initial getting to know you period, remember all those grand hopes and expectations that we had.
I do…I was going to use my witty sermons, and my clever humor and your inexhaustible, tiredless serving…and this place was going to grow so big we’d have to add on. Remember how we were so excited that God was really going to do some wonderful things in this place?
And then after a few years our enthusiasm got a little tempered. A few too many seemingly failed programs, too many weeks of empty pews and this is me talking here…I start to get a wee bit discouraged, wondering what in the heck are we doing? And then you know what happened…God did. I read these words from Scripture, feeling like I wrote them, not some guy thousands of years ago…”I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and for vanity…”on things that just blow away in the wind. I have spent all this time and effort and energy and there is absolutely nothing to show for it. Yep…that’s about right I thought. And then…and whoever says Scripture is a dead language hasn’t read it lately, because then I read: “yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” And dang it…if I didn’t have one of those moments…it’s not about what I do; guys it’s not about what we do. God is the one in control.
It’s not about the programs that we put on, or the fabulous worship services that we have or don’t have, or about witty preaching and in-exhaustive service…it’s about a God who called us before we were even born, who protected us in the shadow of God’s hand, until we were ready to go out into the world. And here we are, nestled arrows in God, called, not to get more people in the pews, but called to be a light to the nations. Called to proclaim to the ends of the earth that there is a God who couldn’t care less about winning and losing, and who cares about nothing more than living in relationship with each and every person at the ends of the earth.
And you know how we do that? How we become lights to the nations? First and foremost—we abide in Jesus, we live in Jesus. When those first disciples met Jesus, they didn’t ask him tons of questions, and Jesus didn’t give them tons of answers…they simply wanted to be with him, to find out where he was staying….to abide in him, like branches live on the vine. They wanted to rest deeply within him, and become a part of who he was and discover what he was calling them to be. That’s our calling as well…to abide in Jesus….to sit with him, to learn from him, to read his stories, to breath deeply his breath, to eat his bread, and become one with him. And then, after living with Jesus we become his witnesses. And that’s the hard part…
Story Number two from said pastor/lawyer friend. Although there are many differences between lawyering and pastoring, there is one big similarity. When someone is going to be a witness at a trial, they’re all excited about it at first—ready to convict or to protect or do whatever they want their testimony to do. Until the actual court date arrives, and then, lawyer-pastor friend says “they turn into a pile of quivering jello.” What if they’re asked a question they don’t know the answer to? What if they don’t get the answers right? What if they make a mistake? And he always tells them. Simply, you don’t testify to what you don’t know. You don’t need to know why the chicken crossed the road, you simply testify to the fact that you saw him do it. You are only a witness to what you have seen.
Us Christians are exactly the same. We want to follow Jesus, we want to be a light to the nations, but when we get to that opportunity to be a witness, we turn into a bowl of quivering jello. What if I don’t know that answers to their questions? I don’t know anything about doctrines and dogma…how can I be a light to the nations. We really should let someone more qualified be this bearer of Jesus to the world. My friend’s answer to us would be the same as to his clients: Testify only to what you know…testify to where Jesus has intersected your life…share where you have lived with Jesus and what Jesus has given to you. I imagine a conversation might go something like this—There’s really so much I’d like to tell you about Jesus…about this guy who meets me time and time again, who loves me for who I am, who saves me from the world and from myself. But, honestly I really don’t have the words…so instead why don’t you “come and see.” Why don’t you come and see and live in Jesus too. Maybe you, me and all these other Jesus followers, can live with him together. And living in him, our light will shine, the nations will see, and we will become exactly what we were called to be. Come and See.