I’ve been trying to think about what I would like to preach this year. Back in November and December of ‘08, I wrote out two complete series of sermons-each 10 weeks long. I was ready for ‘09. Then, well, let’s just say there were some issues with my mouth and my pen and then, well, let’s just say that I won’t be preaching either of those series of sermons anytime soon. Sermon schedules aren’t that helpful when the preacher is being undone by the Spirit.

So that leaves me here, wondering, staring at snow and a computer monitor, drinking a cup of hot tea, contemplating…what shall I preach? What does my church need to hear? What do I need to wrestle with in prayer and what Scripture do I need to be confronted with over and over again so that it becomes the breath in my lungs and the blood in my veins and every waking thought in my head and heart? No, not that one!

Then on the way home from the gym this morning, I was suddenly overcome by a thought, one word, something had toyed with but that seemed too convenient at the time. I mean, of course I should preach about that. Always; who shouldn’t? It’s not that I don’t preach about it, every sermon I preached is infused with and under-girded by this. And I think also, at the same time, even though the thought has continued to regurgitate itself, I have been fighting against it. Seriously: there is a part of me that does not want to preach this. There is a part of me that thinks if I preach it now it might seem choreographed to justify myself or something silly like that. Strange that I cannot get beyond trying to discern the motives of others when I should really be examining my own motives.

Even now, I am afraid somewhat to post this, lest someone misunderstand MY motives. It is a terrible thing, it seems to me, to live for nothing other than trying to discern motives when even the apostle Paul didn’t care about motives.

William Willimon wrote, “Preachers, by the nature of their vocation, are those who speak because they have been told something to say. Can you imagine Paul pacing about his prison cell, agonizing because ‘I have nothing to say to First Church Corinth?’” (Conversations with Barth on Preaching, 47). We speak, he notes, because God has spoken. I am normally very organized in my preaching schedule. Right now I’m not. This is one of those times when I have to ‘not worry about what to say because the Holy Spirit is teaching me what to speak’ and, I am fighting it. I don’t want to preach what the Holy Spirit is telling me to preach. I want to preach from my neatly organized sermon schedules that are lying upon my desk on nice clean paper not from some fit of inspiration that certainly did not come from within me. He’s stalking me.

Seriously. I don’t want preach this word, but as I was on my way home from the gym this morning, was so overcome by this that I literally had to pull off the road. I’m not like that at all. I’m organized. I’m a planner. I want to know where I’m going and how I’m getting there. “Oh God, don’t do this to me. I don’t want to preach on that.” Christus Victor, yes! Resurrection, yes! Anything but this. But it is a losing battle. I can’t shake it. I’m defeated. I’m undone.

” ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

” ‘Lord, where are you going?’”

Jesus commands us to love. Why? Because if it is not commanded we will likely not do it. Seriously, loving one another is hard work and not work we are likely to engage in if we don’t have to. How many of us make an effort to love the ‘least of these’? How many of us go out of our way to ‘love one another’?

I don’t want to preach on love, not now. How can I love now when I know there are ‘issues’ and when I feel like some haven’t loved me. It might seem too fake, too contrived, too choreographed. Right. Like preaching a ten-week series on church leadership isn’t contrived! Still, God is not being at all merciful to me right now. I don’t want to do this, but…

And here’s the worst part of it: I know he’s talking to me; first. I looked briefly at another blog yesterday (I won’t mention which one, but use your imagination) and saw that the top three posts on the front page were all scathing attacks against pastors, men who stand in a pulpit each week and proclaim the Gospel of Christ; imperfectly all, yes, but done nonetheless. And Christ empowers their words or he doesn’t. My heart broke when I saw those blog posts. I am asked to love a person who has not a kind word for even these preachers? How can I do that?  ”I don’t want to preach on love! I can’t preach on love! I am too angry to preach about something so redemptive, something so resurrection empowered, something so kingdom oriented as love. Can’t I just preach on something else. What words could come out of my mouth now about love.” That Hound of Heaven has me in his jaws and the more I wriggle around and excuse myself and justify my Jonah-like attitude about this sermon, the deeper in those jaws sink to my flesh and spirit.

Who cares if we don’t love one another? And how will preaching change any of that at all? Then I was slapped in the jaw with this: If we don’t love one another, how on earth are we going to love our enemies and the poor and those who persecute us? That is, if we don’t, won’t, or can’t love one another-those whom it should be easiest to love-then how on earth are we ever going to be able to love those it is the most difficult to love? Or, worse, if I cannot love those I can see in the flesh, then how can I ever begin to love the God whom I cannot see?

It is far easier, I think, to simply pretend that I love ‘one another’ and go on in life without any real level of commitment to those persons. Words can be terribly empty at times, can’t they? I think it is far more complicated and difficult to be obedient to the command to love one another when there is nothing to gain except a possible rejection. Yet the command is not abated or rescinded. Jesus didn’t say, ‘Wait until everything is A-OK and then love one another’ He just said, “Love one another” and he qualified this in no way at all. Love. We are the only ones who qualify love.

Paul wrote that ‘love keeps no records of wrongs,’ but that doesn’t mean love begins with a clean slate. It means that love wipes the slate clean and starts all over again-each second, each minute, each hour, each day. It means that I forgive 70 times 7 70 times 7 times a day. Do you understand why my flesh is rebelling against this? Jesus has commanded us to do the most difficult thing imaginable: Love one another. My God, I cannot love one another. Or maybe, I don’t want to. Either way, what you are asking Lord is too difficult. Lord, how do I love those and preach love to those that I am struggling to love right now and who are not struggling at all to love me? Is there room in the church for this love? Better: Can the church survive without it right now?

And I don’t want to preach it. I really don’t. Wouldn’t it be safer for all of us if we didn’t have to love those we are like and unlike? Wouldn’t it be safer if I didn’t have to extend and expend myself for someone else and take the risk that they might just be in need of love or that I am commanded to love regardless of reciprocation? Loving one another might mean I have to forgive or humble myself or repent or admit that I am wrong-sometimes even if I am not wrong. Loving one another might mean that I have do all that I can to secure peace even if means that I have to ‘be wrong’, which Paul seems to think is far better (1 Corinthians 6:7). What is impossible with man, is possible with God.

Why is it easier to love those outside the church than those inside it? Why does our flesh rebel against this command of Christ? Why is it that ‘loving one another’ has to be commanded in the first place? Well, I sure don’t understand that at all!

Jesus three times said, “Love one another.” Yet when he was finished Peter looked at him and said, “Lord where are you going?” You know why I don’t want to preach it, love, that is? That’s why. What Peter said.

And yet, Sunday’s sermon is already written. Now I am free to practice what I preach. Better, now I am free to love. That is, Jesus didn’t tell me to preach love. He told me to love.

Semper Deo Gloria!

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39 Comments(+Add)

1   nc    
January 13th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com/evangelical-scandal/campus-crusade-touts-gay-straight-alliance/

here’s some love…

2   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
January 13th, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Love should be the natural outflow of who we are in Christ. We love because God first loved us… in fact to me this is unnatural for us without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

I had a friend who I led to the Lord years ago… well I actually did not like the guy but God told me to befriend him… and I was pretty much his only friend… he found love not because of me, but because God used me and reached out to him.

I would not have loved this guy if not for the Love of God compelling me to love him… and so he found the love of God and was changed.

iggy

3   Joe    http://www.joemartino.name
January 13th, 2009 at 8:24 pm

#1.
I think Tina Turner’s their theme artist…

4   Joe    http://www.joemartino.name
January 13th, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Actually, it could be Van Halen. I mean they “ain’t talking about love” so you should “stop running with the devil.” Or you could “jump” over “panama” to get some “pound cake.” “Why can’t this be love?” I know you “can’t get this stuff no more” but it makes you want to “dance the night away.”

5   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
January 13th, 2009 at 9:06 pm

A very moving “sharing post”. You truly have a pastor’s heart.

Frueh’s Paraphrase of Rom.5:7-8

A lot of people would die for someone they think is good, or to protect their family, or for their country. Some would die for a close friend.

But God didn’t die for any of those reasons, that would be human love. God died for His enemies. God died for Charles Manson. God died for the child molester. God died for the entire ungodly mess called humanity, which most amazingly includes me.

What kind of love is this…

6   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
January 13th, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Comment #1 -

nc – and this statement is perhaps the most hateful and unredemptive in her post:

“Instead, the new evangelical strategy is to hand out condoms to keep homosexuals from collecting the wages for their sin.”

Here is my version of that same statement:

“Instead, the Father’s strategy is to give His only begotten Son to keep sinners from collecting the wages of their sin.”

The presence of self righteousness is the absence of love.

7   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
January 13th, 2009 at 10:08 pm

The vitriol that has been flowing so freely from certain blogs lately has caused me great concern. I’m very concerned about the state of the evangelical blog-dom.

8   nc    
January 13th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Yeah…#7.

She must be having some rough days…

9   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
January 13th, 2009 at 11:04 pm

We do need to pray for her and others.

10   Nathanael    http://borrowedbreath.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 9:53 am

Love wins.

11   Nathanael    http://borrowedbreath.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 9:57 am

This is in response to Iggy’s comment in #2.
I realize that not everyone likes poetry.
But if you’re interested, here’s one that is all about the love of Christ compelling us to love because we are loved.

12   Nathanael    http://borrowedbreath.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 9:57 am

And here’s the link:

http://www.borrowedbreath.com/2008/11/24/christs-love-compels-us/

:)

13   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
January 14th, 2009 at 10:03 am

Nice poem.

14   Nathanael    http://borrowedbreath.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 10:13 am

Thanks, Rick.

Jerry, I agree with Rick that you clearly have a pastor’s heart. Your self-examination in is evident and refreshing.

Thanks for this post, brother.
Shalom

15   Pastorboy    http://crninfo.wordpress.com
January 14th, 2009 at 10:21 am

Good post Jerry.

When we want to criticize, we need to pray because we love God, and because we love God we need to love others.

16   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 10:38 am

PB<

I hope you are not like the guy I used to work at who would say to the boss. “We will get such and such done.”

I used to say to others, “By we he means me.”, because I was the one that usually had to get the project done while he was nowhere in sight.

iggy

17   Nathanael    http://borrowedbreath.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 10:43 am

My wife sometimes says, “We need to take the garbage out,” and we laugh because we both know she means me.

I believe John’s “we” is truly a “we.”

18   Pastorboy    http://crninfo.wordpress.com
January 14th, 2009 at 10:47 am

My we includes me but means we.

We (Christians) should have the primary fruit of love, manifested by all the things described in Galatians 5:22

I do it imperfectly, and looking at the Christian Bloggosphere (as Jerry Noted) WE have a lot of work to do, because what we manifest to the world is a bunch of sniveling 6th grade females.

19   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 11:00 am

Glad to hear that PB…

igs

20   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 11:04 am

Excellent post, Jerry… I absolutely hate the days in which the biblical figure I most associate myself with is Jonah…

PB – happy birthday…

21   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
January 14th, 2009 at 12:37 pm

We only scratch the surface when it comes to love, God’s love. I believe upon the very first moment in the visible presence of the Risen Christ we will be overwhelmed by His glory and holiness, and when coupled with our redemption, we will be forced to worship by the sheer weight of His eternal love, His essence.

We are called to exhibit that love.

22   John Hughes    
January 14th, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Chris L.

I often see my self as Easu and sometimes as the Prodigal’s Older Brother.

I see PB as Peter, sincere, on fire for the Lord but often impulsive and saying things he might later regret.
I see Rick as Soloman, wise and adept at just the right word or phrase.
I see you as the Apostle John, deeply theological and yet loving.
I see Chad as Apollos, having a strong zeal for the Lord, but with some theology needing “correcting” by some orthodox mentors. :-)
I see Iggy as the Book of Relevation – mysterious, open to misinterpretation and hard to follow sometimes.

Now, who does that leave for Baalam’s ass?

23   Nathanael    http://borrowedbreath.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Me! Me! Pick me!

24   John Hughes    
January 14th, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Nathanael: Me! Me! Pick me!

No I had you in mind for a certain Israelite within whom, indeed, there is no gile.

25   Nathanael    http://borrowedbreath.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

…hmmm…I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere else…

26   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
January 14th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

“I see Rick as Soloman, wise and adept at just the right word or phrase.”

Thank you, except the analogy is rendered imperfect when compared with my financila and marital status. My age is a good fit, though. My wisdom comes and goes. :)

27   nc    
January 14th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

John Hughes,

I feel left out…but I guess I’ll have to settle for the ass since Nathanael gets the “disciple” reference.

;)

28   Tony Simoncini    http://www.myspace.com/tonyandshanda
January 14th, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Nice post and it’s good to hear that “WE” are all concerned about the Christian Blogosphere. I couldn’t agree more that we should be able to agree on Christ and disagree on some of the less weightier matters and do it in a way that challenges others to consider our side and not hate our guts : ) So much of what I read is hatred for anyone who doesn’t think the same as “WE”. So here is to a blog status that encourages one another in the Love of Christ to love others and esteem one another higher than ourselves!

Peace
Tony

29   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
January 14th, 2009 at 4:02 pm

It seems as Dr. Mohler is now a bona fide compromiser. Ingrid informs us:

“Dr. Albert Mohler has refused to come out and warn about Rick Warren’s increasingly apostate leadership.”

Soom Mohler will be joining the apostate ranks of Ravi Zacharius.

30   nc    
January 14th, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Yeah, that Al Mohler…poor guy…he has to keep proving himself even after his witchhunt purge of SBTS…

it’s just never good enough for these people.

31   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
January 14th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Tony,

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comments.

jerry

32   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
January 14th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

John,

Who? I’m not really sure I see what your thoughts have to do with my post. Don’t take it personally, sometimes I’m just not too bright.

jerry

33   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

I see Iggy as the Book of Revelation – mysterious, open to misinterpretation and hard to follow sometimes.

You know I like that as my view of The Book of Revelation is both symbolic of historic events and yet at times hidden in mystery. It is the one book that I totally trust the Holy Spirit to speak to me in as I read even after I have done as much historical background as every time I read it I see something new and exciting. It was Revelation itself that lead me out of the “Left Behind” theory as I could not see much in Rev that was taught to me in the past or by “Rapture theorists”. In fact the more I looked at Rev the less I saw the Rapture.

So all that to say, interesting choice… though all the online tests say I am the book of Romans or Paul…. or the theologian Anslem.

iggy

34   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
January 14th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

“or the theologian Anslem.”

Or Captain Hook’s manservant “Smee”. :)

35   John Hughes    
January 14th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Jerry,

Just freebasing off of Chris’ post 20. Sorry to get off topic. Sometimes “regulars” can see this as texting instead of a blog.

36   John Hughes    
January 14th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Iggy,

What online tests? I want to play.

37   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
January 14th, 2009 at 5:20 pm

JH,

I am not sure all the quizes are still there, but they are found here.

http://quizfarm.com/quizzes/new/svensvensven/which-theologian-are-you/

38   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
January 14th, 2009 at 5:37 pm

And here is another example of how politics imperils our Christianity and love for one another. When asked how he felt about Obama asking a gay priest to offer a prayer, Rick Warren said:

“President-elect Obama has again demonstrated his genuine commitment to bringing all Americans of goodwill together in search of common ground, I applaud his desire to be the president of every citizen.”

With that statement he will be misunderstood on many sides. Isn’t the president supposed to be a secular position that does represent all Americans? If I hire a gay electrician to fix my lights am I compromising?

Of course Warren’s bones, with literally no meat left on them, continued to be boiled in some blog quarters. And because they cannot get around the literal verse about loving your enemies, some ADMs have redefined love as “telling the truth”.

God’s love isn’t “telling the truth”, it is sometimes defined as dying for your enemies. “Telling the truth” is clean and antiseptic, a far cry from the bloody mess outside Jerusalem that was love perfected.

39   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
January 14th, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I think some bloggers are equal opportunity haters.