What makes the Bible so fascinating to me is the way it invites us to ponder courses of action that run contrary to those of the prevailing culture and how, by so doing, we come to manifest the deeper dimensions of faith.
In mathematics, as in other disciplines, there is something known as the “eureka experience.” You eyeball a problem and though at first its answer escapes you, if you stay with it long enough, the solution eventually comes. The word “eureka” has Greek origins, and literally means, “I found it!” But most of us know it from the gold rush days in the American West, when miners seeking their fortune would, upon striking the mother lode, shout for joy, exclaiming, “Eureka! Eureka! I found it! I found it!”
Just for fun this morning, let’s spend a moment thinking of all those things we do in life that we’d prefer not to be doing, but we do them anyway, simply because they’re in our best interest to do so. For example, many of you got up this morning and, even though it’s a Sunday, you spent 20 to 30 minutes in some form of vibrant exercise because you know that doing so is in your best interest. Others of you went to the medicine cabinet at dawn’s early light and started pulling out the pills and popping them into your mouth because you knew if you didn’t, it would come back to haunt you. Still others of you came to church this morning strapped into your car with that most uncomfortable thing ever invented, the seat belt or, better yet, you strapped your little ones in to a car seat that requires an engineering degree to master, because, well, you never know when someone might run a stop sign. I think you get the picture. Every single day we go through all manner of less than desirable activities simply because we’re better off doing them in the long run.
Preaching is my passion in ministry. While I acknowledge the other legs of the pastoral stool (administration and pastoral care), preaching is the part of ministry that gets my heart racing. The privilege of proclaiming sacred texts in ways that relate ancient wisdom to contemporary settings is what I find most invigorating about ministry.
When I was a young pastor, and did not know how much I did not know at that time, I often failed to appreciate the importance of signal anniversaries in the lives of church members. While there would usually be major league flower arrangements on the altar table commemorating those important times in a couple’s life, I was oblivious to the most significant marker that particular season was for the two persons being recognized. It was only when I noticed how on most of those Sundays the couple would be joined by other family members, usually children and grandchildren, who had often traveled long distances to be with their loved ones on this most high occasion that I began to see how a celebration of this sort was a truly big deal!
My sister used to have a sign in her room about making new friends, while keeping old ones. The tag line was that some of them were silver and the others gold. I often wondered if one group was supposed to be more cherished than the rest, but I think the point of the poster was that all friends should be valued. Some just come into our lives sooner than others.
No matter where I have lived, people have always complained about the weather. It’s too rainy or too dry, too hot or too cold. No one seems to be content with their climate. I always say, “Wait six months and we’ll be wishing for what we have now.” But I know even as I say our fickle ways with the weather only bring a modicum of relief.
Daniel Hernandez was a recent college grad when he moved to New York. By his own admission he was not ready for a city that was so large and so impersonal. He had landed a job for a company that distributed press releases that were disguised as news – a form of work he described as “soul-numbing.” The only good part of the job was that it allowed their employees one day a week of paid leave to do some form of charity work, so Daniel volunteered for a suicide prevention hotline service, where he saw first-hand the number of lonely people in a place like New York who had reached the end of their rope, feeling as if they had no place to turn and, more importantly, no one to whom they could turn. What Daniel realized in the process that the real reason he had volunteered for this charity work was that he was experiencing pangs of loneliness himself, pangs that perhaps might be eased by speaking with strangers on a hotline. What Daniel discovered from his time with the hotline is that virtually every person struggles with some kind of burden and that we all need someone in life from whom we can seek help for that burden, even if the only help they can give is a simple acknowledgement that “life must be hard” (“Call If You’re Feeling Lonely,” The New York Times, 2/12/14).
“Have you ever had an opportunity to share your faith but didn’t?” That’s the haunting question posed by a discipleship study on outreach titled Share Jesus without Fear by William Fay and Ralph Hodge. The study’s premise is that all Christians have countless opportunities to name Jesus in their daily conversations but often don’t. The reasons are many, primarily: fear, a lack of knowledge about how to initiate such conversations, and (sadly) no real experience to share. Each of these reasons can be addressed, though it takes a believer’s willingness to make the first step to do so.