Sunday, March 14, 2010

The More Excellent Way, is a Challenging Way

I'm not so sure this Sunday morning doesn't call for a challenge!

I love sermons that challenge me. Sermons that make me think about decisions that I've made during the week and those that I am preparing to make going forward.

My friend George Mason, pastor of the Wilshire Baptist Church is a challenging preacher! His sermon, 'A More Excellent Way' based on Paul's letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 13), is a challenging sermon.

"We’re a bit unprepared for it when chapter 13 begins. Paul’s spent twelve chapters on the culture wars of the church at Corinth. He’s hammered away at conflicts and clashes between church members—some playing favorites; some behaving badly and others so good they were bad; and then some with gifts others envied or resented. He’s been all prose until now. He’s made one argument after another. But here it’s as if he knows that reason may change minds but not hearts. Only love can change hearts."

"So he launches into this beautiful composition that begins with its rhythmic “if I have this …, if I am this …, if I do this …, but have not love I have nothing, I am nothing, I gain nothing.” He goes on to say what love is in a cadence of crisp cuts that carve curves we can feel when we hear it as if we are looking at it. Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude …. He goes on to show how love is the most adult way to aspire to, because everything else gives way to it at last. Love never ends. And of the three things that remain or abide, he declares that the greatest of these is love."

"And yet we have to learn this over and over because we don’t seem to get it."

"There’s a legendary tale of a small east Texas town in which a bar began construction on a new building to increase business. The local Baptist church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers. Work progressed right up till the week before opening when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The church folks were smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise in its reply to the court. As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not."

"Whether this story is historical fact or not hardly changes the fact that it’s true. We see this faceoff all the time in our culture. The church claims moral authority: We know what’s best and we’ll have our way, because our way is best for you too, whether you know it or not. It’s God’s way after all. And then when anyone objects to our way, we cry foul and rush to defend ourselves as having the right to state our case in the public realm without being criticized for it. But when you read Paul in chapter 13, is that what you hear? Isn’t he saying that being right is less important than being right rightly?"

That's a challenge straight to the heart of the church in the world. Yet, its a personal challenge as well - really to believers and unbelievers alike. You can listen to the rest of it here .

I was refreshed with the challenge. I know, in my own case, accepting it will be a little tough. But then, what challenges aren't?! Thanks George!

Over the next couple of Sundays, I'll share some more sermons from some other friends of mine, who don't mind challenging those who have courage enough to listen. Hope you are blessed by them.

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