Pastor’s Friday Comments (04.12.19)

Occasionally I have the privilege of leading the worship service on Sunday afternoon at Ivy Hall Assisted Living, down the street from the church. I always enjoy being with the small group of retired people that faithfully attend.

We meet in the large lobby in the front of the facility. That means that quite often people, either residents or visitors, pass through on their way to somewhere else. And, if I’m preaching when that happens, even though I am trying to focus on what I am saying, I am always conscious of their presence. It isn’t that their presence is a distraction. It just bothers me a little bit that they are hearing just a snippet of the message. Truth be told, I’d almost prefer that they not hear any of it than just a little sound bite.

They probably haven’t heard the text so they don’t know the foundation on which I’m building the message. They might be hearing an illustration but they don’t know the truth to which it is being applied. They can’t follow the logical progression (if there is one) to the entirety of the sermon. They don’t know what I’m trying to do! It can be very frustrating.

But then, that is more closely akin to how most people experience the gospel than sitting patiently through a fully prepared message. If your life is the only or most prevalent way that others witness Christianity, it isn’t likely that you often have a chance to make a full-blown presentation of what it means to you to be a follower of Jesus Christ. They just get to see snippets of your faith in action.

They don’t know the biblical foundation that undergirds your actions in a particular situation. They can’t be expected to see how an interaction with you is based on your core beliefs or your past experience of the Holy Spirit at work in you. They aren’t privy to every detail of your life that demonstrates a consistent application of the gospel to what you do. They just get to see a moment, a snapshot, of who you are as a Christian.

So it is worth considering, in any interaction with another individual, what are they coming to understand about you and the Lord you serve from that single picture? Are they seeing something that is completely out of character and that doesn’t represent who you truly are? That can work in either direction, of course. They may be seeing you either better or worse than how you usually are. Is it a fair representation of your Christian life, and, if so, is it one that you want them to see?

Asking these questions requires a level of mindfulness beyond what we usually practice. When we are in explicitly “religious” or “spiritual” situations, we may think about our Christian faith. When dealing with a boss or employee or talking to a neighbor or friend, maybe not so much.

I think most of us know, after the fact, when we’ve “blown it,” when we realize that we could have done a better job of demonstrating how Christ has made a difference in our lives, how much more loving and patient we can be than would be our natural inclination. But surely it would be better — for us, for the people with whom we interact, for the kingdom of God — if we thought about those things in advance.

I’m not just advocating a level of focus that some people can achieve more easily than others. What is more helpful is simply a greater awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit of Christ within our lives as believers. If we know Christ is there, the Spirit has the opportunity to stop us from harmful actions and to encourage us to love and care for others.

We are soon approaching the end of Lent. With the celebration of Palm Sunday this weekend, we witness the setting in motion of the events that will lead to the crucifixion of our Lord. But notice how, throughout that most difficult week in his life, Jesus always acted with courage, compassion, and grace. The only explanation for that is the absolute dependence on God to provide what he needed. And as we go through life, that is the only thing that will sustain us as well.

If someone were to follow you around and, occasionally, randomly, take a picture of what you are doing with your life, what would they see?