A Pastor’s Greatest GIft

17 12 2013
I know it’s Christmas, but this post is not about Christmas at all.  And while Jesus is indeed the greatest gift the world has been given, there is another great gift, given to anyone who is charged with preaching on a regular basis.  You see, the task of preaching is one of the greatest and most humbling gifts of ministry given to a pastor! 
Bearing a word from God . . . AS WE UNDERSTAND IT . . . to an expectant and hungry people is invigorating, transformational, and life-giving.  It is a privilege to be able to spend a week reading, studying, praying, and engaging in meaningful conversation and reflection, all in order to bring eternal truth . . . AS WE UNDERSTAND IT . . . to people who are eager to feast on the ‘bread of life.’
However at the same time, putting what we believe out there for all to examine and critique, Sunday after Sunday, is risky business.  We put our hearts on the line for all to see, hoping that listeners won’t find what we have to say too offensive or injurious.  We know full well that God’s word is often convicting, and that the Gospel often challenges peoples’ lives and walk in ways that are hard and at times painful.  We know that!  But there is still a side of us that hopes our messages remain mere reminders of what people already know, and not eye-opening concepts that frighten, or that demean pre-conceived notions or beliefs.  We want transformation . . . desperately!  For what we are communicating is a message that is nothing short of . . . transformational.  However while I know that in my head, my heart longs to preach sermons that do more ‘comforting of the afflicted,’ than ‘afflicting of the comfortable.’ 
Unfortunately, we really have very little control over any of this.  Oh sure, we choose our texts, and we determine which sources will be used to examine them in greater detail.  We know what people need to hear, and in the end, it is ultimately our decision about what tack to take in crafting a message.  But in the final analysis, my job in a Sunday morning sermon is to bring a congregation a word from God . . . AS I UNDERSTAND IT . . . and in ways that might take us all deeper in our spiritual journeys.  That is what I attempt to do week after week, and to a certain extent, I have to leave peoples’ responses to what I have to say in the hands of Holy Spirit. 
I cannot put together a message based upon what I think people want to hear.  I cannot prepare a sermon that is rooted and grounded in a worldview that is five hundred or a thousand years old (a common worldview of many in the church today).  And I will not preach a message that hides what all my tedious study and prayerful reflection have led me to be believe to be true.  Before all else, I have to remain faithful to all I see and hear the Spirit doing in and saying to me.  And this does not mean that every word that proceeds from the mouth of Bob Melone needs to be embraced and accepted as Gospel!  It is simply the Gospel . . . AS I UNDERSTAND IT!  
And friends, that is all ever can do, and what I will always strive to do, in my Sunday morning sermons.  I will never be disingenuous with my words, and I will never hold back with what I believe God longs for the world to know and hear.  I will try to be tactful, and gentle, and I will always strive to be loving and gracious.  But the church today is full of pastors longing for congregants who embrace an adult faith; and yet who continue to preach to them as if they were children sitting on the lap of Santa Claus asking for a new bike.  Scripture says that we are to long for the spiritual meat of the Gospel, because we cannot live on infant formula forever. 
So to anyone who listens to me week after week, or who reads anything I have to say in the blogosphere, please know that is what you’re going to get from me!  And you need to accept it for what it is — the Gospel . . . AS I UNDERSTAND IT! 
I can give you nothing more.  And I will give you nothing less.