Saturday, August 1, 2015
My Last Sermon
My Last Sermon
While I’ve always agreed with pastor and poet John David Burton’s confession that “years of school prompt my distrust of and disinterest in the academic” and my seminary field education supervisor John Robertson’s caution about not separating myself from God and people “by degrees,” most of what I teach as a professor of homiletics and practice as an undershepherd have been guided by four ministerial maxims deeply embedded in my head, heart, and gut by seminary professors.
Bert Atwood: “Trust Jesus and, in everything else, hang loose!”
Donald Macleod: “If you have the privilege to preach, say something for Christ’s sake!…Not just three points and a poem!…Say something for Christ’s sake!”
Elmer Homrighausen: “When you preach, deliver the turkey! Don’t pluck it in front of everybody!”
George Sweazey: “Preach every sermon as if it is the last sermon that you’ll ever preach!”
Though I’m not as certain as my favorite eschatologist in Belvidere, Illinois, I think Jesus will come back sooner than later because of the increasing frequency and intensity of things that He prophesied in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and John’s Apocalypse.
That’s why I’ve tried to follow the advice of my preaching professors.
I also know that I could check out at any time if the minority on the corner of Lincoln and Main who hate me become the majority, I’m assassinated by an Islamofascistnutball or the disgruntled from the past who can’t wait for me to leave before returning, or I get what I deserve for not wearing a helmet which would answer the prayers of my enemies.
I’m a Psalm 90 realist.
Annnnnnnd while I have more excitement and energy for gospeling and undershepherding than ever before, especially since my time with Eugene and covenant brothers back in October 2011, I know there are, uh, however many who would like to see me shut up…one way or the other.
I’m a Matthew 10 and John 10 realist.
Annnnnnnd shortly after July 9, 2015, I began to wonder if my days are numbered on the corner of Lincoln and Main.
Let me explain.
I wrote a memo to our session on July 9 in preparation for our August 10 stated meeting; including a call to prayer about a recommendation from some elders to consider selling the old manse because most churches and pastors have concluded manses are a bad deal for all parties.
Despite knowing there will be ham and coleslaw in Fellowship Hall on Wednesday or Thursday if I die on Monday and then people lining up on Sunday to be on the next Pastor Search Committee to get the kinda pastor that they’d really like, I was unprepared for some elders saying we should hold on to the manse just in case the next pastor wants it.
Considering I have been clear that I’m good for another two decades unless assassinated or my grandfather Jacob’s cancer genes have been inherited, I began wondering if I should update my PIF/resume/dossier.
Maybe those elders talking about my successor are wishful thinking.
Sooooooo maybe Dr. Sweazey’s urging way back then has become existential.
Be that as it may be and knowing that day will come sooner or later and maybe sooner than later but definitely some day, I guess it’s time to think about my last sermon.
Thinking my last sermon may be scheduled sooner than I thought with folks so concerned about my successor and the prayers of Islamofascists and people who can’t wait until I go so they can come back and people who want me to get what I deserve for not wearing a helmet, I guess I should write that last sermon before I’m dead and can’t write it.
Romans 12 and Psalm 91 will be the texts.
Not really ready even if others are so obviously, I better start jotting down some notes.
With so much antici…….pation, I better start now.
Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you,…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I’ll review the thesis of the first chapter from my non-best-selling book Fifteen Secrets for Life and Ministry: “Remembering you’re going to live a lot longer with Jesus than anybody else makes establishing life’s priorities a no-brainer.”
I’ll probably spend a lot of time talking about Matthew 6:33.
Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Egocentrism must yield to Christocentrism in the Church – translated best by the human side of Jesus in Gethsemane: “Your will not mine be done.”
That’s the only important question for people who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Anything in deference to anyone else including self is infidelity.
Hans Kung: “The agenda for the church is to discover what is permanent…originally meant, before it was covered with the dust and debris of two thousand years…This is not another gospel, but the same ancient gospel rediscovered for today.”
Romans 12:4-8 “Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others…”
No one is any more or any less important to God than anybody else and everyone has an important part to play in His family.
We are interdependent upon each other in absolute dependence upon Him.
Christocentrism over egocentrism along with affirmation and appreciation of the priesthood of all believers is challenging for people prone to idolatries and life and ministry patterned after me, myself, and I more than God; as in, “I know that’s what Jesus and the Bible say, buuuuuuut Jimmy or Joel or Bill or Rush or Francis or the President or the Supreme Court or the denomination or I think…”
I recall hearing from a church that I had served without distinction about a year after I’d left. They asked me to send a picture for its framed clergy collection in the library. While searching for something appropriate, I stumbled upon another of my non-best-selling books: God’s Top Ten List.
I did not send a picture. When asked again, I said I could not find anything appropriate.
When I was a much younger pastor, the church put my picture in their clergy gallery before I left; and before I stopped enabling that kinda idolatry as in distracting any attention from God alone. Within a year or two after my mug shot appeared in the gallery adjacent to the sanctuary consecrated to the glory, laud, and honor of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I began feeling increasingly uneasy to nauseated about it. Sooooooo early one morning, I took down the picture, unfastened the backing to get at the picture, and put a big smiley face sticker over my face.
Nobody has ever noticed.
Aside from the fidelity of my desecration of the gallery enabling idolatry and egocentrism, it was also an early moment of sobriety in recognizing there will be ham and coleslaw in Fellowship Hall on Wednesday or Thursday if I die on Monday and then people lining up on Sunday to be on the next…
Romans 12:9-21: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The big deal about Christianity is eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus.
The big privilege of Christianity is showing our gratitude to God for His eternal and existential blessings by exercising the distinctive ethic of following Jesus by the book.
The agape love ethic of Christianity is praying and working for the highest good of everyone regardless of who, what, where, or when without the expectation or need for response, regard, or reward.
Finally, in my last sermon, if I get the opportunity to deliver it, there will be a concise and categorical declaration of why, despite my past and present and future insults to God’s holiness and injuring others, I have overcome my depravities and the conspiracies of those who have wanted to detour even destroy me for loving Jesus with enthusiasm and without equivocation with no respect to idolatries, traditions, positions, proprieties, and anything else that’s religiously elevated to fidelity with only coincidental correspondence and often contradiction to Jesus by the book.
Psalm 91:14-16: “Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him. I will protect him, because he knows My name. When he calls to me, I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
God said it.
I believe it.
I have experienced it/Him.
That’s/He’s why I continue to overcome.
I think it was Phillips Brooks who said, “Preaching is truth through personality.”
In other words, God’s truth, as we affirm and accept and embrace and integrate it/Him into our heads, hearts, and guts, affords us the privilege of being audio-visual aids as we gospel.
It’s the privilege of using ourselves as illustrations of what and how God can save us from perils to paradise; for if He can effect a personally saving relationship despite our depravities, He can effect His salvation for anyone/everyone.
In short, my final sermon will herald the best news of all.
Jesus is the answer to all of our questions from here to eternity.
Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is Savior.
BTW, I’m getting on my pony at 3:00 a.m. on August 2 for a non-stop 900+ mile ride to Deadwood, South Dakota.
I’ll be back on August 9 to preach about “Facebook, Frogs, and Faith” (Matthew 7:12). Though most won’t, you can listen live by clicking on www.bnnsradio.com at 10:00 a.m. on that day.
Of course, if I don’t make it back or I’m assassinated by an Islamofascistnutball or the disgruntled from the past who can’t wait for me to leave before returning or I get what I deserve for not wearing a helmet which would answer the prayers of my enemies, you can print the preceding and share it…if anyone is interested.
Blessings and Love!