Although it’s been two years since I’ve preached a sermon, it’s still a part of who I am. I half-woke this morning at 4:30. My first thought was that I wasn’t ready to preach. I had no sermon in my heart to deliver. (For the record, in all my years of preaching I always was prepared to preach before going to bed on Saturday night.) I turned over thinking about what I should preach in a few hours.
But then I remembered that I had no sermon because I had no place to preach. Confidentially, this is still my greatest personal struggle. In May, 1980 God called me to preach in a profound and clear way. And now, here I am, trying to convince myself to go back to sleep because there’s no sermon to preach.
But this morning, in the darkness, God did a God thing. He spoke. And in His magical voiceless voice said, “YOU are MY sermon.” Trust me. At 4:30 in the morning this is a lot to process. Any thoughts of sleep disappeared as my brain started to process this message.
What do you think it means when God says, YOU are my sermon”? Here’s my thought process at 4:30 this morning:
1. Anyone can stand up and preach. And sometimes, as I’ve discovered, the delivered sermon isn’t too great. Even the best sermons are not the infallible word of God.
2. While still in bed, I remembered the advice of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel all the time, if necessary use words.” His advice reminds us that a sermon goes beyond words. It demands action. His advice has challenged me for many years.
3. But this message from God takes the idea of preaching to a different level. He’s pointing out that how I live my life is HIS sermon to the world. I’m still trying to figure this out but it reminds me of an incident when I was seven years old. We were entering the house of a grandparent. I was mouthing off and my dad told me to shut up. I ignored his advice so he kicked me in the butt. Why? Because he realized what I was saying was a poor reflection on him. My words and actions were in essence an extention of who he was.
4. Here’s where it gets weird. At this point I remembered that Jesus is the “Word of God.” John 1:1 puts it like this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus, God’s Word, was and is God’s sermon to the world. If you want to know what God is like, look at the life of Jesus. I’m sure God looked at Jesus and said, “YOU are my sermon.”
5. Here’s the ultimate weirdness. God now revealed the same thing to me. God looked at me and said, “YOU are my sermon.” Before you scream heresy let me share with you what Nazarene Theological Seminary professor Dr. Rob Staples said to his theology class 40 years ago. He said that with God in us we are like “little Christs” running around on the planet. Of course this is not to say we are part of the Trinity or that we have always existed. But it does suggest that what we say and more importantly how we live, is a reflection on God.
So there you have it. Preaching is great but it’s not the highest calling. Doing good things is a form of preaching the Gospel but even that isn’t the highest good. The highest good is to live your life in such a way that YOU are God’s sermon.
This morning you might go to a building and hear someone talk. And today you might do good things. But the real challenge is to live your life in such a way that you embody and radiate the full love of God.
May each of us not just talk a good talk or do good things. But may we strive to be a sermon of which God can be proud.