I love to preach. It is what I was called to do.
I suppose it should not be a surprise it is a paradoxical calling. I hate it and I love it. I love it because there is no greater honor to study and pray and ponder and speak the word of God to the church. I hate it because speaking the word of God is painful to me.
This week someone wrinkled his brow and said, “Your preaching is so negative.”
Wendy reminded me that another person, who has heard hundreds of my sermons, said she had never heard such grace preached more clearly in her life.
Who is right? How do we sort it out? Is it possible for two people to hear the same preaching and one hear grace while the other hears doom and gloom?
My preaching is not all sanguine. It is not butterflies and rainbows. When I preach, I try to get to where the text really matters to those of us who live in the real world. Butterflies and rainbows, while real, are generally the adornments of a world filled with bugs and thunderstorms. I like to talk about the bugs and thunderstorms. I see more of them than I do butterflies and rainbows.
Grace is not the Disney dream of songbirds, butterflies and rainbows, grace is good and beautiful, but it is good and beautiful in the midst of a world filled with bugs and thunderstorms.
Grace is not beauty in and of itself. Grace is beauty in contrast.
Grace is shelter in a storm. Grace is light in the darkness. Grace is hope in despair. Grace is sight for the blind. Grace is life out of death. Grace is righteousness for sinners. Grace exists only in a world and to a people who desperately need it.
And for those who like to think of themselves as good, grace is a terrible reminder of a truth they prefer to ignore. That truth, is that we fail. We fail over and over. Grace says, “God loves us anyway.” We would prefer to shorten it and simply think, “God loves us.”
But for those of us who are all too aware of our feet of clay, we need to be reminded God loves us anyway. We look in the mirror and don’t see someone who would naturally draw the love of a Holy God. We feel the shame of our own nakedness.
I am someone who is painfully aware of my own brokenness. I need to hear someone say, “God is not blind–He sees you for who you really are, and He loves you anyway.”
I know more broken people than whole ones, and so I guess will keep speaking the Gospel I know. It is good news of wholeness to this broken man.