Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | June 20, 2019

Sermons Are Not The Answer: We Are

I was recently drinking a cup of coffee at a nearby Starbucks when I saw a poster card on the bulletin board with the following words… placed by a local Baptist church in our area:

“Life can be hard, and its difficulties can touch people in different ways. Some people feel absolutely exhausted and unsettled. Others are forced to battle with depression, addiction, and chronic illness. Still others are left to contend with the relentless pressure of guilt. God has a word of hope for every person that is overwhelmed. Will we listen?”

And then there was a list of sermon titles with the date of each church service.

It’s unfortunate that this mindset permeates church-world Christianity.

Are you overwhelmed? Exhausted? Unsettled? Depressed? Addicted? Sick? Feeling the sting of shame? Then come to our church to hear our pastor’s sermons on these topics! Get a “Word from God” so you can go back home and feel all better. If you will just listen enough, believe enough and obey the Bible enough, you should be able to pull yourself up by your own boot-straps and get it together!

I wonder if the following scripture ever made it into the pastor’s sermons:

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 34-40)

Or this one:

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

 

My point is this: The hurting of this world don’t need or want to hear our pastor’s preaching on “the Bible” nearly as much as they need the Body of Christ to function as the Body of Christ. But this poses a problem, especially within our culture of comfort and convenience. It’s easy to “invite people to church” so folks can hear our pastor while we silently sit by and do nothing. But to actually lift up the needy by investing our time, abilities, emotional energy or money into people who are depressed, or addicted, or sick, or broke, or overwhelmed, or exhausted, or lonely, or damaged in some other way, to the point that it costs us and perhaps costs us significantly…. well, that ethic is foreign to many. Yet this is the ethic of Christ and the ethic of the Gospel. And since His Spirit resides in us, it’s an ethic that should characterize His Church.

Perhaps the following words on the above poster-card would have been better:

“Life can be hard, and its difficulties can touch people in different ways. Some people feel absolutely exhausted and unsettled. Others are forced to battle with depression, addiction, and chronic illness. Still others are left to contend with the relentless pressure of guilt. GOD HAS A BODY OF BELIEVERS TO GIVE HOPE TO EVERY PERSON THAT IS OVERWHELMED. Please come on the following dates; WE WANT TO LISTEN TO YOUR STORY, GET TO KNOW YOU, AND DO SOMETHING TO ALLEVIATE YOUR PAIN. No strings attached, we want to help!!

Now that, my friends, is the spirit of the gospel, and it’s what this world longs for.

 

 

 

 


Responses

  1. When one who is truly guided by the Spirit sees postings such as you shared from Starbucks one immediately sees the hesitation to offer any confidence in the power of God to bring positive change to those who are suffering through some form of affliction. I kind of believe that if many of today’s religious leaders re-wrote scripture [although some do just that in their sermons at times] they would re-write the portion of scripture where Jesus cries out from the cross; ‘Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit!”. In their version God would respond; “Sorry, I only help those who help themselves!”
    This is a widely referred to phrase in the Christian community where I live. I really stunned a men’s breakfast discussion at which one attendee blurted this pious sounding, but non-scriptural phrase. I waited until all the amen’s subsided and asked all in attendance, “You all realize that the foundational truth of the scriptures is that we have to admit we need a Savior because we are unable to save ourselves…right?. You are on the mark in your view that the hurting don’t need a Pastoral word of hope…they need a real caring, loving, listening, helping neighbor. Great insight, thanks.

    Like

    • Thank you for the feedback and couldn’t agree more. And believe me, that phrase you mentioned is quite popular here in the Bible-Belt.

      Like


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