On Preaching and Practicing
My sermon yesterday was on “The Joy Paradox.” I started with how the beatitudes describe a blessedness, happiness, joy or fortune that is contrary to what we normally think of in terms of happiness. “Blessed are those who mourn?” Really? “Blessed are the meek?” Are you serious? “Blessed are those who are persecuted?” Jesus is obviously talking about a joy comes from serving God and is different from the happiness in what's happening that we usually focus upon.
Jesus says that we can be his disciple unless we “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). This follows immediately after Peter’s “good confession” that Jesus is “the Christ of God.” Jesus next explains to the apostles for the first time his coming death and resurrection. So when Jesus tells them that disciples must follow Him and carry His cross, he was talking about the journey toward Jerusalem and death he was getting ready to undertake (see 9:51). Jesus goes on to say “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24).
It is only when we die to self in following Christ that we can really find true and lasting joy. Our world and our nature lead us to think that we are happiest when we pursue self. Jesus tells us that lasting joy comes in the act of denying self, and we spend some time talking about what that might mean for our lives.
I guess it was a good enough sermon. No one stopped me in the middle and yelled, “Men and brethren, what must we do?” But then no one stood up and yelled, “Oh fooey!” either (that happened to a preacher friend of mine once). So it was a good enough sermon.
So then I went home and helped Lynn with dinner (made dressing for a spinach salad and even opened a can of mandarin oranges) and we ate. Then I sat down in my recliner for my usual Sunday afternoon nap in front of the Redskin game. It’s always each to sleep during a Redskin game; they never do much that would encourage much other than sleep. I wasn’t really aware of what Lynn was doing until she asked me (with a little bit of an edge), “Are you going to watch football all afternoon?” That was an unfair question. I wasn’t really watching; I was dozing. And it wasn’t really football; it was the Redskins.
Apparently Lynn wanted to go for a drive down the Colonial Parkway or do something else fun with her husband on what was a gloriously beautiful Sunday afternoon. But I was too dense to recognize either her desire or the beautiful day because I was focused on dozing in front of the TV. Why? Because that is what I wanted to do. By the time she let me know of her displeasure with my choice of Sunday afternoon activity, it was too late to do anything else (my Sunday night group is at 5:00). We do have a date for NEXT Sunday afternoon
Moral of the Story: Apparently it is easier to preach about unselfishness than it is to live unselfishly. Go figure.