Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Preaching preview

Many thanks to Bill and Chad for doing a great job this past Sunday! MoSt is most blessed to have you two!

God willing, this coming Sunday (May 29), I'll be back in the saddle and Acts 10:1-11:18 is where I'll set up base camp. This is a profound and pointed passage. It's exceedingly personal. It could very well be the strongest and most shocking word in all the book of Acts!

But you'd never know that from the way it has usually been presented. How have you usually heard it taught or preached? In my hearing, I've almost always heard the emphasis placed on one of two points: (1) positively - it's about how Cornelius became a Christian and/or (2) negatively - it's about how the Spirit doesn't typically work in conversions the way he did with Cornelius.

But go read this text again very closely and in one sitting* - Luke simply does not put the emphasis on either one of those two points! This passage isn't about what someone did to become a Christian initially (though that gets mentioned) nor is it about how God does or doesn't work in conversion. It is about how a long-time Christian was finally converted to an essential aspect of Christ-like living in which he had been in denial! It is about how God confronted a disciple and how that disciple repented of their prejudice. It is about how someone very strong, experienced, respected and mature in Christ still had plenty of growing up left to do, namely in the way others - all sorts of others - are perceived, valued and accepted. It is about the death of pride, the birth of true humility, the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.

Not that such a word could possibly have any relevance to our lives today or anything. :-) So let's be honest with this word from Him and do the hard work. Let's stick a stake in our pride and let's stake ourselves on a cross beside the cross of our Lord Jesus. Let's let God's word put emphasis on the sort of things that must be emphasized, personally and collectively. Let's entitle this sermon The Kingdom: Unfiltered and let's allow God to confront the ugly monster within us named "Prejudice" this Sunday morning!
* About reading Scripture closely - I'll never forget a moment in my first class with Dr. Neil Lightfoot at ACU. The class was "Introduction to Exegesis" (i.e. - how to interpret Scripture) and Dr. Lightfoot said: "There are three things you must do to understand a text." We all brandished our pens and prepared to write down these essentials of distilled wisdom. "First of all: Read the text." [Heads down and the sound of many pens writing quickly] After a weighty pause, he said: "The second is like unto it: 'Read the text.'" [Heads up and not a sound - we all knew we had been had] Another pause - "But the third is the greatest of them all: 'Read the text.'" [Heads down and the sound of many pens writing quickly so as to not forget this moment, no doubt for many of us, to use it the following Sunday in a sermon!] :-)