One of my favorite ministries is leading the chapel service at the local nursing home. The residents are used to singing along to a CD with a solo mandolin for accompaniment (it’s bad!).
So when I come with my red guitar, foot tambourine and harmonica every 6 weeks or so, and treat them to live gospel music and spruced up versions of favorite hymns, they flock to me and fawn over me like I’m Elvis! I truly feel like a celebrity in their midst, which I’m sure says more about their fading faculties and judgment than my talent!
I spent most of the half hour playing a bunch of Christmas hymns, and I saw several tears shed as these songs evoke warm memories of Christmases past of brighter times and more youthful years. I gave an impassioned 4 minute sermonette on Isaiah 40:1-11 that celebrated God’s tendency to shine his light and hope in the valleys and desert places first, and He comes to us both in power (preparing a way, tearing down mountains, and leveling ground) and in gentleness like a tender shepherd caring for his lambs.
I played some more songs, they shed some more tears, and then the service was over. Afterwards, I stick around to mingle and greet folks. This is often the most interesting part of the experience. My highlight this time was a little old lady who looked up at me, shook my hand, and said,
“Well, that was different!”
It was a classic comment. Different? I probably felt like the woman on a blind date being told she has a “nice personality.” I wasn’t sure if she was describing my message or my music, or maybe my beard and bad hair day. Different?
So I asked, “Was it a good different or bad different?”
“Uhh…indifferent different,” she said and slowly scooted away with her walker.
Just another day of ministry. We pastors are stewards sacred realities and truths. We parade Eternity’s treasures around with us, offering them generously and without cost. We trumpet life-giving wisdom and proclaim soul-rescuing truths. We scatter the seed of the saving gospel broadly and indiscriminately, and never know where and when its going to sink down into ripe soil and take root — or when its going to bounce off hard, rocky (or indifferent) soil.
Sometimes we do a good job. Sometimes we do a bad job. But, regardless of how we pastors perform our duties, I think what we all lament most are those encounters with an inoculated soul and a lifeless spirit of indifference.
When God’s Word is unleashed in a room with passion and fervor, let people drop to their knees with conviction, rise up with cheers of excitement, or form an angry mob and try to throw me off a cliff; just deliver me from the spiritual wet blanket of indifference.
Still, I can’t wait to go back again! Nothing fuels and inspires preaching like the real possibility that this may be the last sermon one of these folks ever hears, and the last opportunity to truly embrace Jesus and our eternal hope. As my text for the day made clear:
A voice said, “Shout!”I asked, “What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass …The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).
The day light is growing dim, and our lives are like the dew on the morning grass. We are all withering and fading, but God’s Word stands forever. Love it or hate. Just don’t be indifferent.
I hope and pray the Holy Spirit is hard at work in my precious few moments I have with these lovely folks. I truly enjoy bringing the good news and some songs of hope.
Now, if only I could get my regular Sunday sermons at MainStreet down to 5 minute zingers. If I could pull off that miracle, I know for sure my congregation wouldn’t respond with indifference, but rather uncontrollable displays of jubilation!
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).