My First Last-Minute-Sermon

NSo this morning I got the call that our Pastor was sick. He'd come down with some sort of bug or possibly some kind of food poisoning or something and had been sick for hours. He was in no condition to lead the services and our usual backup (the organist of our church, a retired minister) was out of town, so it was down to me. Now, while I'm comfortable preaching, I usually rely on at least a few days of preparation and I usually know that I'm on well in advance of the actual occasion. This was the first time I'd ever been asked to preach with such short notice so I was immediately struck with a healthy dose of anxiety. I quickly drove to the church, touched base with some of our worship staff and began to quickly put together a message.

Besides the fact that I only had about an hour's notice to lead the service, besides the fact that we had a baptism scheduled (which we postponed due to my lack of qualification), and besides the fact that I was running on little sleep because of a bonfire I had at my house with some of my students last night, perhaps the most ironic source of discomfort was the fact that today was Memorial Day Sunday. Now it isn't that I have anything against Memorial Day. It's just that I do have something against "America worship" and patriotism taking precedence in the church and especially in a worship service to God. I don't understand why hymns to a country or to a flag should have any place in a church that's dedicated to the anticipation and implementation of God's borderless and flag-less reign. I typically try to avoid church altogether around patriotic holidays. I find patriotism to be a great distraction from the true allegiance of the church to God. So it was truly ironic that today was the day I was asked not only to be there but to preach God's Word amidst such distraction.

Nevertheless I prepared my sermon on Colossians 3:12-17. I offered my outcomes to God and spoke from my heart. I shared some fresh thoughts and even got to quote two authors I am currently reading--Jurgen Moltmann and N.T. Wright--indeed, two of my very favorites. After two services, I was officially pooped from the inside out and I had officially survived my first last-minute-sermon.

The point of my message and indeed the point of preaching in the first place is Christ and the growth and maturation of people in their relationship with God. I pray that even though way too much of my personal focus was on myself, rather than on the point of my being there in the first place, God used the things that were said to draw people to God--to greater intimacy with and commitment to Christ.

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Agent X said…
July 4th fell on a Sunday two years ago. I had known it was coming for a few weeks, and it was weighing heavy on my heart. I knew that my home church would not make a celebration of the flag-n-country in any official manner. I figured (rightly as it turns out) that our preacher would even make a disclaiming remark or two about that, since our heritage has a long history of keeping church and country seperate.

However, I also knew that our bunch was ever increasingly politically conservative and activist. I knew that even though we would not have a flag in the church house, and no official ceremonial liturgy honoring country, that many attendees would wear their flag lapel pins or neck ties or color schemes as a way of honoring the holiday.

After prayer and consultation, I decided to make a very prophetic gesture. I took a full size American flag to church with me and draped it over my Bible allowing the tail of it to drag along on the floor behind me everywhere I went. It was a picture I was creating. Bible and flag both in one hand. Flag dragging behind. It even got stepped on a few times!

I was thinking of Phil 2, where "every knee will bow..." and how Paul includes even the knees of Caesar in that statement. That flag bent the knee that day!

Honestly, if that flag cannot bend the knee in the House of God, then it is high time for judgment! Look out! God is not mocked ya'll!

That gesture earned me a prophet's wage alright. I upset a lot of people. Only one actually came to talk to me about it. Three others made comment/questioned it. But most just let me know through the grapevine that they were angry, but did not let me know who they were. Let's just say, it touched a nerve!

It also exposed idolatry in the church. And that is what everyone there is wrestling with to this very day.

I appreciate your care on this matter especially. I know it was tough on you. I totally get that! But there is a power, a principality, a force trying to upstage God Almighty that has crept into our assemblies. It is not that the flag needs to be dreaded or hated. It needs to learn its place. This is at the very heart of getting our "nation under God". That flag is not above him. It aint even next to him. It is beneath the footstool that is His enemies. But, I am sure that down there, that flag is just fine.

Many blessings...

Keep up the good work.