I wasn't at Abiding Grace this weekend to preach a sermon, but I couldn't help but take this chance to talk about some of the powerful sermons I've seen and heard these past few days - sermons more powerful than any I could speak. You see, I'm writing this "sermon summary" from Winner, South Dakota, where God saw fit to take my wife's brother to heaven through a semi-accident. He died because he chose not to run over the car that pulled out in front of him in a 65-mile-an-hour zone or the truck coming the opposite direction. Instead, he took the ditch, endangering only himself. That selfless act set in motion a series of sermons - visual demonstrations of God's love.
The sermons were nonstop from the offers of help here in Covington to get us on our way to South Dakota to the stream of visitors at my wife's parents' home. Person after person showed God's love to our family and spoke of God's love that they saw in Joel. There was the lady who had never met anyone else in the family, who spoke about the way Joel hopped out of the truck he was working on to catch her son and buy some of the popcorn he was selling for a fundraiser when everyone else had given the cold shoulder.
There was the Native American man who brought a dream catcher for the family and spoke of the way Joel always told him there was so much more to God than superstition. There was even the bartender who came to the funeral and told mom and dad that she wanted to start coming to church because it was clear that Joel "got it" and she wanted to "get it" too. He had preached plenty of sermons to the hundreds of people that packed that church to praise God for the gift of faith Joel had and the certain heavenly home he had prepared.
But some of the clearest sermons - testimonies to God's grace and power - came from his family. Their reliance on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins and their trust in his promises of a pain-free eternity shone through as they spoke with all the well-wishers. Their desire to give God glory and share his message couldn't have been clearer as I saw them pick hymns for the funeral with lines like: "A mighty fortress is our God," "I know that my Redeemer lives ... He lives triumphant from the grave, He lives eternally to save ... He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there," or "Heaven is my home. And I shall surely stand there at my Lord's right hand. Heaven is my fatherland. Heaven is my home."
You see, any sermon worth its salt will remind you of the core message of God's word: Even though we mess up and don't deserve it, God so loved us that he gave his one and only son to die that we might live. As we live for him, reflecting that love of God in our lives and acting on the sure confidence God has placed in our hearts (something that can not be faked in a time like this) - we preach sermons that more people hear than we ever realize.
I guess that church marquee makes a good point: "You may be the only sermon some people ever hear." God bless your preaching.