Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all those who take refuge in him.
I love working on my sermons in any place other than my office. When I sit at my desk I become easily distracted by the many other responsibilities that I have in ministry, and I discover that my focus is not on the words before me. So, whenever I have the opportunity, I work on my sermons at local coffee shops in and around Staunton.
One of the greatest advantages of working on a sermon at a coffee shop is that most people see me sitting with a bible and a computer and they see me as someone strange, and therefore leave me alone to work diligently. (However, sometimes this backfires because people see the bible and begin to confess to me their most recent and devastating sins…) I enjoy working on proclaiming God’s word outside of the church building because it helps to inspire and remind me of the totality of God’s grace beyond the walls of his churches.
This past week I was sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops, writing about the Sermon on the Mount, when I began to notice that two other patrons were talking about faith and Christianity. Being in a public place, I do not feel bad for overhearing their conversation, and, frankly, once it started going I couldn’t stop listening. (It was clear that the two gentlemen were talking about running for political office; one had already served, and the other was looking for advice about beginning a political campaign.) This is what I heard:
Candidate: Should I start attending church?
Politician: Well, do you believe in God?
Politician: In this town, you should start attending whether you believe or not. If people here believe that you believe, they’ll believe in you. So, yes, start attending (he then listed some of the prominent and most well-attended churches). When you give speeches you need to talk about how you feel God calling you to this office even if you don’t believe it. The religious folk will be more likely to support you if they think you’re religious.
Candidate: Okay, I think I can do that.
Politician: Good. I’m going to coach you: I’ll teach you hold to hold your hands when talking, how to dress for debates and fundraisers, and how to talk about God being on your side of this campaign.
The psalmist warns the rulers of the world: serve the Lord with fear and with trembling. Our God is not one to be messed with. To frivolously throw around the call of the Lord on one’s life is to invite chaos and tribulation. As I listened to the politicians discuss how to play into the religious sensibilities of the people of Staunton I began to wonder about all of our desires to attend church. Do we worship God so that other people will think better of us? Or do we worship because God so loves us that there is not other way to respond?
So, as we prepare to begin a new week I caution us to remain committed to the life of discipleship that we have been incorporated into. If our faith hinges on the approval and expectations of others it cannot be fruitful for our lives. Faith can only become real when our hearts are set aflame for Christ.