If first happened over twenty years ago. He came up to me with this mischievous smile on his face and said, "Don’t you just work one hour a week?" He said it like it was the first time it had been uttered. But it wasn’t. Nor would it be the last. Others picked up the line and it continues on.
Now how should I have responded to this? He thought it was novel or original. I thought it was goofy. Surely, he could have come up with something better than that old line.
Yet there is no use in getting defensive. How could I possibly explain my work? How do I explain the weird hours? How do I explain the nature of this work? For instance, you may spend many hours preparing a message. Often, you are going to say not only what you have prepared that week but what you have prepared through the years of being a Christ-follower.
You’ve anticipated this moment when the Word of God would be opened.
Then Sunday morning comes, you stand and open your Bible and it happens:
A crow squawks and pecks on the outside window (as it did last Sunday morning).
For ten minutes, a baby communicates that it is miserable and no one can seem to find the nursery.
The P.A. system echos.
I look to my right and see one of our Bible class teachers, a man, already sound asleep, head cocked to the side, mouth open.
Just before I preach, someone utters something to another person in the assembly which just makes me shudder. (What was he/she thinking? Better yet, why aren’t we thinking?)
Well, to be honest, all of this does more than make me shudder. It makes me wonder if preaching these messages really does any good. At times, it doesn’t appear that it does. Does it really matter? At times, I wonder.
Yet, I know that there is so much at stake each Sunday morning. These people sit in their pews, holding their Bibles. Some come with anticipation about the message. Some mentally check out long before a word is uttered. Others sit quietly, preoccupied with their own lives.
A woman struggling with depression wonders if she will have the energy to make it through the day.
A 16 year old girl wonders if she is the only one her age trying to live right .
A man having an affair sits, numb, with a cold heart, because of his sin.
A young man is torn by how difficult his new marriage really is. Is it supposed to be this way?
A middle aged women thinks about the cancer within her body.
This moment where we open the word of God is not just a "lesson" or a "sermon." No, the one presenting the message is holding a live wire in one hand and is bringing it to human beings who desperately need the power and life of God. This is not just a speech. This is not just a an exercise in rhetoric. No, during this moment , the Holy Spirit goes to work on people who desperately need hope–who desperately need to be reminded that the cross/resurrection story can make a radical difference in life at street level. Some are encouraged. Some are convicted. Some are comforted. God knows exactly what to do in each heart.
And yes–some will hold back. Asleep. Closed. Disengaged. They are not going to open themselves to this moment of God’s work–at least not now.
Yet, you never know what is going to happen. At times, God seems to work in spite of all that happens. In spite of the crow. In spite of numerous distractions. In spite of all that seems to work against this moment, God does a powerful work in someones life.
That person may leave and tell you how much they appreciated your message. And that may happen on the day, when you thought it was one of your worst.
There are times when I wonder if this really matters. There are times when I wonder if the obstacles aren’t too great. There are times when I feel so disappointed in some of us, that I just want to get away from it all. But then, I have to admit–there are times when I am sorely disappointed in me as well. I don’t know what to do with some people. I don’t know what to do with some of these impossible situations. There are times when all of this leaves me feeling angry, exasperated, and sad.
Yet, I choose to believe that God is at work in powerful ways. My defeats are not his defeats. My impossibilities are not his impossibilities. My frustrations are not his frustrations.
THAT gives me great hope.