“Did Jesus Show Up?”
For the last several weeks, I have asked Dawna after worship on Sunday whether or not Jesus showed up in my sermon. That might sound like a stupid question to ask, but after watching a video where Timothy Keller spoke about his preaching, I thought it a question well worth asking. Let me explain.
Keller recounted his earlier years of ministry and the times he and his wife, Cathy talked about his sermons. Keller would ask Cathy, “How was the sermon?”
She would simply say, “O.K.”
Tim wasn’t exactly happy with that answer because he (like me) wanted to hear, “Your sermon was fantastic! It was awesome!” He wasn’t hearing that all too often, so one day he asked Cathy, “How often are my sermons awesome?”
She replied, “Maybe one in four.”
Keller was taken aback by the response, but his wife explained:
All of your sermons are good. They are rational and well thought out. You talk about how we should live and what Jesus tells us to do, and you are right. But I also know most of the time I can’t do what Jesus tells me to do, and I feel guilty about not doing it, but that’s where it ends. Then, there are those few times when you talk about what we are supposed to do, but you end with saying, “You know, this is what you should do, but you probably can’t do it – at least to the extent Jesus calls us to. And even though you can’t, there is One who did, and He was willing to die for you when you couldn’t.” When you say that, it inspires me. It makes me want to be a better person and try to achieve those things. Every once in a while, Jesus shows up.
Keller says in the lecture, “I didn’t get it then, but I get it now. Cathy was getting to the heart of the gospel.”
And I think I’ve started to get it too. This is why you don’t often hear me tell you what to do in my sermons lately. This is why I’ve changed the name of this column. Christianity isn’t primarily about what we are supposed to do. It is about what Christ has done.
If I spend a lot of time preaching about what we should do, you might agree with me; you might not. More than likely, if I am parroting what Jesus says in the Bible, you will agree with me, but you will feel guilty for not doing it. You might become frustrated, angry, or even come to that point of saying, “Pastor, you spend an awful lot of time telling us what we do wrong, can you tell us what we do right?” This is where a whole lot of people in our society end up after worship Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.
But if Jesus shows up...that changes everything. If folks realize what He has already done by living the life we are called to live and dying the death we deserved, then that inspires. That changes a heart. That gives a person courage to strive to live out the commandments, not in fear or obligation, but out of love and joy.
Does Jesus show up? I certainly hope so because it’s not about what we do, but it is about what He has done!