Monday, January 26, 2009

Six days and twenty-three hours

I always leave my sermon notes on the pulpit when the service closes. Later in the week I'll collect, cover, and store them in a 3-ring binder, but I try not to think through the message more than a simple thumbs up/thumbs down assessment. Preaching books tell me this is poor practice; leadership books encourage more reflection.

But I view my closing prayer as a farewell to the message.

Until a few weeks ago, this habit made me feel hypocritical. I would stand before my church, present truth and encourage application. Some applications were specific (meditate on God's holiness this week; ban McDonalds for a month), others were vague (live fearlessly!). Regardless, as I intoned every exhortation, I knew that I was not going to make a deliberate effort to model it myself.

This sounds horrible, I know, but it was my mode of operation. Every sermon was a eulogy.

Fortunately, God exposed something to me recently. A friend in the church asked when I started preparing the message for the upcoming week. "Sunday at noon," I replied. As soon as I locked the church doors and set the alarm, my mind was already racing to the next passage of Scripture. Meditating on it. Visualizing it. Dancing in its shoes. Then for the next six days and twenty-three hours, I allowed the text to form me as I tried to reduce it to a half-page, half-hour snapshot of God.

Leaving a sermon on the pulpit was not hypocricy, it was leadership. For six days and twenty-three hours I played in its pages, only to pass it along for others to participate. I only leave what I have first lived.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Tomorrow Barack Obama will wake for his first full day as President, and I will still have to put gasoline in my car and buy milk at the grocery store. My lawn will remain covered in snow, and my youngest daughter will still be in diapers. This is life with a new president. This is living under the banner of change.

Change is a fair-weather word. It inspires hope and promises a brighter tomorrow. It raises downcast eyes. It provokes lines at voting booths and 2 miles of human traffic at the DC Mall. Change beats business-as-usual, especially when business-as-usual is cutting costs, hours, and jobs.

But change is hard to execute. In his inaugural address, President Obama, spoke with impassioned eloquence (indeed a welcomed change from former presidential speeches). He made promises, acknowledged challenges, and paused to consider the skeptics.

I watched a live feed of the event with a group of pastors. We had gathered to discuss the topic of creating vision. The host church recently kicked off a series relaying the annual theme: It’s Time. Branded on shirts, bulletins, posters, and television screens the slogan screamed for recognition. It’s time to think. It’s time to lead. To serve. To live.

As our new President outlined his hopes and plans, intentions and policies, I couldn’t help but connect his words with the motto of the church where I sat. It’s time… he was saying. For a change. For unity. For personal sacrifice. For America 2.0.

The speech closed with a riotous applause; the ceremony concluded in song. Then our new president was ushered away in a wave of handshakes and blessings. It was a great speech—as many speeches have been great. It was an historic moment—as many moments have been historic. But in the end, the fact remains that tomorrow we still have to work.