I wake up early on Sunday mornings. Usually around 4:00, 4:30 I get up, get a cup of tea, and sit down with the sermon for that day. I spend some time going over it in my mind. Checking notes. Adding comments. I’ll look over the Bible lesson, too. If I have time I’ll turn on the TV and watch some other preachers. We don’t have cable, so this is about the only day I find them on.

I’m troubled by what I often hear. There are some I can listen to longer than others, but there is a good bit that I don’t find biblical. Sure, they quote Scripture in their sermons, but they’re not reading it the way I’m reading it. They’re finding things there that don’t match my understanding or my experience.

In his book, The Pastor, Eugene Peterson puts it this way:

Well-meaning people tell us that the Christian gospel will put us in charge of life, will bring us happiness and bounty. So we go out and buy a Bible. We adapt, edit, sift, summarize. We then use whatever seems useful and apply it in our circumstances however we see fit. We take charge of the Christian gospel, using it as a toolbox to repair our lives, or as a guidebook for getting what we want, or as an inspirational handbook to enliven a dull day. But we aren’t smart enough to do that; nor can we be trusted to do that. The Holy Spirit is writing us into the revelation, the story of salvation. We find ourselves in the story as followers of Jesus. Jesus calls us to follow him and we obey–or we do not. This is an immense world of God’s salvation that we are entering; we don’t know enough to use or apply anything. Our task is to obey–believingly, trustingly obey. Simply obey in a ‘long obedience.’

Not all of life is ‘fixed’ by becoming a Christian. In fact, some of it is a good deal harder. That “love your enemies” part sometimes gives me fits. And yet, we are called to obedience. We go where we’re sent. We do what we’re told. We follow the one who lived life to the fullest and died on a cross.

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