Shortly after graduating from college a friend of mine, Mike, and I began attending church together. In spite of being the worldâ€™s biggest cynic and a regular doubting Thomas, I saw the value in attending church.
We attended two churches off and on before I moved away. The two churches were vastly different one was a church of about 600 in our community and the other was a mega church off approximately 4000 members. But they both shared one thing in common, awful preaching.
Mike and I usually went to lunch after services. Usually we would try to top each other with our ridicule of the sermon. Mimicking bad preaching became kind of a forte of mine. One Sunday in particular stands out in my mind. The pastor preached a 50 minute sermon where he repeated the phrase, â€œIf you want to know God; know Jesusâ€ no less that 8 times, and that was only when we started noticing.
We had other games we would use to entertain ourselves. One of our old professors, Rich Israel (Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages), also attended the mega church. He had an uncanny resemblance to Waldo (from Whereâ€™s Waldo). Mike and I play a game of sorts during the sermon, where is Rich Israel.
One Sunday by chance, we sat directly behind Rich. Our game was spoiled. But we got to chat after the service, so the day was not a total waste.
I asked Rich how he of all people endured the services. He responded that he read the New Testament over and over again in Greek. He encouraged me to redeem the hours and do the same (in English of course). I felt convicted of my â€œgameâ€ playing and started self directed reading of the Bible during sermons. I jokingly referred to sermons as â€œmy personal hour of reflection.â€
I estimate that between that time and my first setting foot in Floris, I read through the entire Bible twice.
Today by contrast, I have been thinking about the sermon all day. This is not unusual at Floris. The worst week at Floris is better than the best week at…well you know.
Two illustrations in particular captured my imagination.
First: Fear and doubt are the tensions that build our spiritual muscles.
Second (a story): At the end of the movie â€œA beautiful mind,â€ the Professor is approached by a man who tells him that he has just one the Nobel Prize. Because by shear will-power he has just put his hallucinations aside, he pulls a student aside and asks her if she sees the man. She reassures him, â€œyes, professor there is a man there.â€
As pastor of this church I have had periods where I doubted the goodness of God. I sometime walk in this sanctuary, look up at the cross, and say to the person next to me, â€œdo you see someone there?â€ The answer has always been a resounding yes.
Merry Christmas Rich !