Monday, July 12th, 2010...6:01 pm

I’ll just wear my glasses, then

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In the course of listening to other sermons about Psalm 148 and meditating upon them, I thought of an illustration.  I believe it is a powerful illustration that will put the obedience of the wind, hail, snow, and fire in the context of personal [sic ?] obedience to the decrees of God over against the ideas of “impersonal forces” and “natural laws.”  The problem is that I fear I might not be able to maintain my composure while delivering the illustration.  Here is my dilemma: do I include the illustration and risk breaking down and weeping in public, or do I leave it out and play it safe, seeing as how it’s my first sermon?  What would my Master have me do?

Well, what did my Master do?  What did His servants do during the early days of the church that are recorded in inspired history?  When Lazarus died, Jesus wept.  Jesus, who understands the Father’s glorious plan better than anybody, wept.  Jesus, who knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead just a few moments later, wept.  Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, wept.  What about Paul, the hero of reformed and Calvinistic churches?  Did he always preach (or write, for that matter) in a calm, cool, collected manner?  Did he lecture?  Nay, he often preached with tears.  He even provided an apologetic for them: “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. (2 Cor 2:4).”

Indeed, God is sovereign.  If he decrees that I shall break down in tears, no passage or illustration is safe.  He can use the leprosy passages in Leviticus to bring me to my knees.  He is sovereign over my emotions; I am not.  I am but a servant; the Lord will feed his sheep as He sees fit.  I must seek to be a faithful servant of Christ.  If I maintain my composure–if I am in my right mind–let it be for the glory of Christ and His gospel!  If I am to be a fool and choke back tears in public, let me be a fool for the sake of Christ and His gospel!  If He sends tears, let them be a drink offering and a thank offering, poured out before his throne.  Only let Him feed His sheep.  He must increase; I must decrease.  Here I am, Lord, send me.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

But I am an American evangelical.  I have seen tears abused for wicked and manipulative pretexts by peddlers of the gospel.  Ginning up crocodile tears to pad your wallet or to make a name for yourself is an abomination.  God is not mocked; He will judge, and then the tears of those hucksters will be real.  But should the counterfeit tears of the televangelist cause us to fall into the other ditch?  There is good reason to oppose the syrupy, squishy, evangellyfishy, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend treacle that we see around us, but we need to follow scripture rather than reacting against the prevailing error.  There is a certain aspect of American reformed and Calvinist culture that operates as if our bodies only exist to take our brains to and from church.  I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been influenced in some way by this.  We are Christians, not Vulcans.  Christianity is incarnational.  Both of these ditches have latent Gnostic assumptions and both of them are inconsistent with the Incarnation.  If you think you can do theology without it erupting into doxology, your theology is wrong.  Period.  I don’t care how many fat books with small type you’ve read.

It’s still a few weeks until I preach.  I may find as I write the sermon that the illustration doesn’t fit with my overall theme, or that it distracts from it.  The Lord may take me in another direction.  That would be a valid reason to exclude it.  A fear of looking foolish is not valid.  As for now, it stays in.  I’ll just make sure to wear my glasses instead of my contact lenses when I preach.

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