Humbled by a blast from the past as well as fear not fully exorcised on the Corner of Lincoln and Main (scroll down), the Lord drove me to my knees much earlier today as I realized again that retirement from the battle is for those that have become cranky and disloyal, have an emotional or medical problem, are pooped, think it's a waste of time, lost something that they never had, banter and moan about their jobs, wanna be begged not to quit, don't like what they're doing anymore, have enough cash to quit, realize they were co-dependent with their jobs at the expense of their families and...
Parenthetically, I wrote "Scratching the Surface of Retirement" for pastors and other politicians along with real people that are considering or should consider retiring juxtaposed to the aforementioned; and if you'd like a copy, I'll send it to you.
Anyway, it all prompted me to pray as I prepare to preach on Sunday with increasing passion, precision, and, I pray, persuasion to Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit who never contradicts Jesus by the book.
Prayer Before Preaching
Father God in Savior Jesus by the Holy Spirit,
I was walking in devotion earlier today and remembered a very mean man named John that hated me in a Christian kinda way.
It happened long ago shortly after being ordained; and I have never forgotten it and now understand how his meanness shaped so much of my understanding of being a pastor, officer, church employee or member.
While I've never understood emotionally how people in churches, pulpiteers and pewsitters, can be so mean and nasty to each other and pretend intimacy with You apart from the course on original sin, John hated me because, well, uh,...I don't remember.
But I remember him saying, "Preachers come and go and we stay. You'll be gone before long and we'll look for the pastor that we wanted before you came."
I know it's true.
If I die after this sermon, there will be ham and coleslaw in Fellowship Hall on Wednesday, and then people lining up next Sunday to be on the pastor search committee so they can get the pastor that they wanted before I came.
I have no delusions about my place in anybody's life.
Actually, I know people want me to go because I get in the way of their idolatries and they really want, as Dylan sang, "an errand boy for their wandering desires."
While I thank You for the authentic Jesus-loving-Bible-believing people in the church that encourage me, I know it's an increasingly decreasing remnant in all American churches regardless of flavor or franchise.
Anyway, while John meant to hurt me by what he said, You used it to remind me of a valuable lesson repeated over and over and over in the Bible with Paul explaining our interdependence in dependence upon You: "We belong to each other and each needs all the others" with the qualifier from the first beatitude being only the totally dependent upon You live happily ever after.
Since then, I have felt privileged not entitled to preach.
And I have understood it is Your plan that everyone but You can be replaced in the pulpit or pew - pastor, officer, CE director, choirmaster, organist, drummer, singing nun, custodian, youth leader, secretary and especially...me.
It is Your design that everyone can be replaced but You.
Now I understand why churches die.
They focus and rely on people more than You.
When I talk to people in dying churches, I hear lots about...everyone...everything...but You in Jesus by the book.
That's why they die.
That's why America is dying.
The seven letters to the churches of Revelation come to mind.
So Lord, I want to thank You for that mean old man John because You used Him to sober me about my role in the advancement of Your Kingdom.
I am totally dependent upon You in interdependence with faithful women and men to esteem You, enthrone You, and enable intimacy with You for existential relief and eternal life in heaven by grace through faith in Jesus.
Speak in spite of me as I ask You to take this sin-inclined life of mine redeemed only by grace through faith in Jesus and work a miracle so that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will be acceptable to You, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
This is my prayer as I preach today.
May what happens next be for the glory, laud, and honor of Jesus alone in whose name I pray.