Something remarkable happened this past Sunday! I was ministered to by my own sermon at the moment I was giving it.
I was called upon to fill in for our pastor who is on vacation. The nice thing about our church is we have several able bodied preachers that can preach if needed throughout the year. Therefore, the heavy burden does not fall to one person, which can oftentimes lead to the feeling of obligation. Instead, it falls to the individual who feels called.
It has taken me 2 1/2 years or so to get to know well this wonderful community of people called Papio Creek Church. They are an incredible group of individuals who love the lord and each other – something rare these days in the church it seems.
It is a powerful and amazing experience to be used by God. While I was preparing my sermon (this was a 5 year project in the making, but I am referring specifically to last week), I added a note, which implied I would answer a question – to which I did not actually have. My plan was to take it out of my notes, if after my study, I was unable to answer the question. It was not a simple or random question, but a difficult one that involves the ethics around how God could command Abraham to
sacrifice murder his son.
By Saturday night, I was unable to reconcile the passage in my own mind. I decided to visit the church around midnight and spend some time in prayer with the Lord. At some point I felt the need to anoint the sanctuary and therefore began praying throughout every area of the church as well as for the people. I mention this only because I never actually received the validation I was looking for going into Sunday morning (foreshadow: turns out I did, I just didn’t know it). Despite this I still felt great about what had already been prepared and thought it would still be a quality message for God’s people. One thing though – I forgot to take the implied promise out of my notes.
While I am preaching on Sunday morning I get to the point in my notes where I make the promised implication. The funny thing is, I didn’t really notice it until the end. My notes end with “Read John 3:16”. But, as I am reading I feel like the sermon is incomplete; I feel the dreaded “did I say I was going to do something and I didn’t?”
After I read the closing verse I feel this need to keep talking. If you listen to the sermon (below), you can hear this internal conflict (maybe process) working itself out. I only feel the need to say something else, but I do not know what it is I am going to say – so I just talk. My first statement is shaky and not communicated well. The next couple of statements are as clear as can be and they answer in a profound way the aforementioned puzzling question. You can tell in the final statement, I am not completely sure about what or why I just said what I did. I had never thought those thoughts in that way before (irony alert: one of my main themes was on perspective).
The power and presence of God can be terrifyingly beautiful thing.
You can listen to the message below:
Although the message revolved around Genesis 22, I also introduced the congregation to narrative theology (which since graduate school has been a passion of mine). This is something our church will be exploring beginning in the fall.