To Preach It Is To Live It!
I am a preacher, a term I have never preferred but which I cannot deny. I preach anywhere from two to six times a week during the year so I am a preacher. As a preacher I sometimes wonder if anyone is really listening, if the words register and then I am confronted by the fact that indeed some do listen and one of those who always listens is none other than the one I attempt to preach about, Jesus !! How do I know? Let me tell you:
This past Wednesday our Lenten study was on how the Christian faith has been polluted from the pure message of Jesus' of love and acceptance to one of judgement and avoidance. I shared that the church is called to be the place where we all can bring our needs, our struggles, our pain to find comfort and support and understanding. Well, yesterday, Thursday, I had an opportunity to 'practice what I preached and frankly I failed. A gentleman I will call T. call asking for $40.00 to pay to get to Cumberland for a family funeral, the last person in his Mother's family. I knew T. and had helped him some in the past and had told him I do not like to give out cash so I was annoyed he came asking for - cash. He actually came six times looking for the cash and each time I put him off with my explanation I did not have $40.00 on me (which was the truth) and that I just didn't like giving out cash. On his last visit he noticed that two sisters of our congregation were bringing food to our food bank for the children of Micah's Backpack. It was a large amount of food so he offered to help. He was of great help. He mentioned his need and one of the sisters came to the office and with $40.00 confronted me with annoyance asking, 'You preach a good sermon, but do you live it?' Wow, a hit upside the head! In this case I did not live what I had proclaimed. Jesus never set limits to his love or helping someone and yet here I was doing just that. From Wednesday we read this verse:
Now the tax collectors and 'sinners' were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" Luke 15:1-2
Jesus broke the teaching of the Law as interpreted by the Pharisees and others to help the 'sinners' , those most in need of his love. I had become a Pharisee! I was more worried about 'my rules' then the hurt and need of T. The two sisters who heard me preach on Wednesday had responded as Jesus would have. A learning for me and nudge from God to 'live the sermon you preach brother!'
Well, there's more. Late that night as I was in Walmart (not my favorite time to be there but I forgot to get a modem for the cable company for the internet connection the next day) leaving and putting my cart away, an elderly gentleman asked in a gentle voice, 'Are you going toward Dual highway?' I was relieved to say that no I wasn't which was true. As I turned to walk to the car he called to me in his soft voice and said, 'You left an item in your basket' I turned and there was a $10.00 item I had forgotten. Then it happened, a still small voice or 'nudge' come within me and I heard myself saying, 'I'll take you'. As we drove to Motel 8 I come to know a bit about Mr. William Dent, a man on his way to Harrisburg from Roanoke hoping to get work. He had three bags with little if anything in each and a cart with a cane and umbrella. I asked how he was going to get there and he said he would go to the truck stop near Valley Mall on I 81 and ask a truck driver for a ride. He was pleasant and hopeful. As I explained I never give strangers rides he said, 'God let's you know when you can trust someone and offer help'. Now I was the listener and he was the preacher!
Yes, I am a preacher who needs to remember that Jesus listens to what I proclaim on His behalf and hopes I will live the sermon I dare to preach in His name. I pray that I can grow stronger in living the life of faith that Jesus preached and I dare to repeat! I am thankful for the reminder of this from the two sisters who challenged me with Mr. T. and for the Holy Spirit speaking to me in Mr. William!
Blessings and Peace,