This past Lord’s Day morning was my first time to preach in South Haven, Kansas. I hope it won’t be my last but you never know about such things. This world is a strange and wonderful place and part of the wonder is not knowing what strangers may become friends and which ones we may never see again. In the absence of a designated biographer, I gave my own very brief life sketch.
In that bit of verbal scribbling, I mentioned my own spiritual journey which has led me to drop most of the convenient labels and embrace non-denominational Christianity. Well, there, oops! I guess that’s another label!
Anyway, I said something to the effect of “I don’t believe it matters much which labels we put on ourselves and on the signs outside our buildings. What matters is whether or not Jesus truly lives in us, whether or not our lives are truly lived in submission to him.” I also properly attributed my conversion on that point to an old tobacco farmer in western Kentucky named A.V. Sims.
I noticed a few looks of sudden interest but didn’t think much about it, figuring it was better to keep thinking about my sermon topic rather than chasing some fresh rabbit along one of many meandering paths in my mind. And so I talked about defining “the abundant life” and whether or not it should be measured in terms of money, power, possessions and such. I reminded folks that those were not the metrics that Jesus used and that such things as faith, love and hope might be better indicators. I went so far as to propose that the evidence of the Spirit’s fruit in our lives, things such as joy, peace, patience, gentleness, self-control and such might be pretty good indicators that we are living life above the common.
“If we focus on serving and seeking God, I believe we will find that we have all of this world’s goods that we truly need,” I declared. Sometimes, when I really get into a sermon, I end up saying radical stuff like that.
After I finished up my relatively short time in the pulpit, the next song made me grin like a rabbit fresh out of the briar patch after being in the tar: “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.”
Those of you familiar with the song know that what follows pretty soon after that is “And all these things shall be added unto you.” Whether you’re familiar with the song or not, please know two things: 1) It was a perfect follow-up to the sermon and 2) not one person in that church had the slightest idea what my sermon would be about.
I’ve seen that happen again and again during the course of my ministry. With absolutely no known collaboration between the preacher and the worship leader, songs are selected that blend perfectly with the spoken message. Then, as if that wasn’t cool enough for one Sunday, I saw Todd later that afternoon.
“People asked me if I’d been talking to you before the sermon. I told them I hadn’t said anything to you.” He went on to explain that they had been discussing the possibility of merging with one of the other congregations in South Haven. “There are three churches here in this tiny town and every one of them is shrinking. They thought surely I’d talked to you about it.”
I love it when God sneaks into our lives and does awesome things without asking us, don’t you?!