I couldn’t wait to preach. The passage had done its work in me, challenged my mind, burrowed into my heart, and awakened me to joy and repentance. It was now time to invite others to share my experience. I wanted nothing more than to faithfully paint a vision of God to enthrall and lead them to deeper trust in God.
Our service wouldn’t start for another three hours, so I listened to worship music to further prepare my heart. How Great Is Our God began to play. I imagined the day people from every tribe, tongue, and nation would unite their hearts and burst into song about the glory of Jesus. Tears filled my eyes as I prayed for the church to taste even a morsel of that future feast.
The time had come. I stood before the church filled with expectation, poured out my heart, and more importantly, what I believed was God’s heart for the congregation. But when the sermon was done, the announcements were made, and the benediction given, a depressing realization settled in. It’s the kind of realization that makes you question the meaning of preaching, and you sense the absurdity of our work.
After all the toil, labor, and longing for God and the church, what did they do? They went to lunch.
Are We Crazy?
Let’s admit it. Our ministry appears absurd at times. If we proclaim the gospel every week, we proclaim a message designed to confound the wisdom of this world. It’s foolishness to those who are perishing, but the power of God to those being saved. Therefore, no matter how winsome our approach, we must brace ourselves to appear foolish, knowing that the substance of our sermons is a stumbling block to many.
Our conviction makes us look crazy, too. At a hearing before King Agrippa, someone wondered if Paul’s education had made him go mad. Paul, a prisoner awaiting trial, responded by looking into the eyes of a king with wealth, power, and prestige, and expressed his yearning for the king to be more like him. Indeed, the content of and our conviction in the gospel makes us appear crazy. But we've prepared for this. Click To Tweet
Indeed, the content of and our conviction in the gospel makes us appear crazy. But we’ve prepared for this. We knew what we were getting into by becoming messengers of the gospel—and we’re not ashamed of it. But there’s still another sense in which preaching feels absurd, which goes beyond content and conviction, and is exposed by lunch and an afternoon nap.
The Prophet Who Pastors
We have about thirty minutes of the church’s attention every week, and we don’t want to squander it. It’s an opportunity to disrupt the false gospels that discipled them throughout the week and stir their affection for the Lord. Therefore, we feel the weight of what we preach, that the words are laced with eternal significance and should also be weighed by our church. This is the prophetic nature of our call.
We also know we’re called to help people locate God in the ordinary details of their days. We remind them of the sacredness of life, that God determined our times and places so we could find him wherever we are, and that he’s not far from any of us, not even during lunch. This is the pastoral nature of our call.
Absurdity arises when we focus on one aspect of our call. The prophet in us wants the sermon to cut to the heart, for heaven and hell are at stake, and joy and abundant life are available to those who hear. But when wholehearted preaching is received with a halfhearted response, we wonder, have I cared too much? Am I absurd for feeling so deeply, for believing this in my bones? Or worse, have my desires for this church exceeded God’s? Why didn’t he lead them to respond?
To avoid this, we must learn to make prophetic calls with pastoral sensibilities. We eagerly expect God to transform people. Why else would we preach? But we temper expectations to acknowledge God’s activity after the benediction.
Resurrection Power and a Meal
It’s hard to do this consistently, but Jesus instructs us here. As history looked forward to the promise of redemption, Jesus came near to us, obeyed the Father, succeeded in every place we failed, fulfilled the law and the prophets, endured the cross, despised its shame, and rose victoriously from the dead. Yet after vanquishing sin and death, he did something that was as mundane as his resurrection was astonishing. He made breakfast for his friends. It's an opportunity to disrupt the false gospels that discipled them throughout the week and stir their affection for the Lord. Click To Tweet
This encapsulates the wonder I’m slow to receive—that God’s cosmic purposes are not slowed by a table with friends. An ordinary meal can be an occasion to behold and ponder resurrection power—even breakfast can find a place in God’s plan.
This doesn’t diminish the need for joy and expectation when we preach. We’re called to study the text, pour out our hearts, and pray for the church so that together, we can behold his glory. The heavens cannot contain it. Neither can our sermons. But who knows what God will reveal over lunch?