Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Ain't the Time for a Sermon

I know I am a bit behind the times when I tell  you I heard Sandi Patty's song, The Bare Stage, for the first time last night.  If you are not familiar, the words express the deep longing and need for God by the performer who has walked off the stage having completed a performance to a rousing crowd. Now the stage is empty except for the lone work light  illuminating the darkness.

The song resonated with those moments after having delivered a sermon.  Emptied,   knowing full well only His presence could fill, no matter how much I got patted on the back for a good sermon at the backdoor.

Last night my mind raced ahead to think of the people in worship on Sunday.  I wonder if Sunday morning is when they will hear that sermon, that Word from God ?  Or will there be enough in the Word preached to remember in the moments after....?

...after notification of the death of a loved one,...after delivery of papers from the other's attorney,...after the doctor confirmed the symptoms with a diagnosis,...after your child reminded you that you might have trained them up in the way they should go, but they have definitely not returned--yet,...after a pink slip lies limp in your stunned, though competent hands,...after a betrayal kisses your face with the hot salt tears, staining your cheeks.

Most of us know the need for God in those moments.  What about after...?

...after that graduation,...that raise,... after that promotion,...after that wedding,... after the birth of that child, or grandchild,...after that mountaintop experience....?

Perhaps these are the moments that preceded Sunday morning sermon attendance.  I am not saying Sunday morning sermons are a waste of time, or that we have to schedule our times in God's presence as Israel did on the Day of Atonement.  Rather, I am yearning, along with Sandi Patty,  where is the sermon, the Word of God, God Himself when the work is over, the accolades have faded, and no one is around to know you were the headliner?  Just one source of light guiding you safely across the barren stage.

That's where sermons belong: like a bag of refreshing trail mix that gives timely energy for the present moment and the hike that lies ahead when we have used up all our stored energy.

I am confident that God will show up in those moments (He keeps His promises and appointments), like he did for Lt. Dan on top of that mast in the movie, Forrest Gump.  What about the sermon, the vehicle, equipping for that moment the listener walks off stage?

The challenge is twofold:  Proclaim the Gospel truth in such a way that the listeners will leave with more than a doggie-bag-ful, ready to nourish when those moments come.   As caring, compassionate Christians, we need to be sensitive to the clues from others who can't wait for Sunday morning's sermon.  They are in need of something more immediate than three points and a poem.  They need a Word couriered intervention from an ambassador like Philip on the desert highway. 

As fellow performers walking across the bare stage after our show is over, let's listen for others standing in the darkness.  Some can't wait for Sunday morning.  Others may not make it into a pew under a steeple next Sunday for whatever reasons.  Listen!  Then see the Presence of God fill that bare stage like He did for Isaiah when he grieved his king's death!  All because God loves them and used you to listen them to that aha! moment!

Want to know more about the kind of listening that makes such a difference as you share the Good News of Jesus?  Contact me at  I'll be listening for you.