Last night as part of my Lay Servant Training, I preached to a group of my fellow lay servants. I shared a sermon I’ve preached before-Membership Perks from Romans 5:1-5. I tweeked it some, stream-lined it, and it was better. I was watched, analyzed, and critiqued. And while I was really looking forward to honing my craft further, it turns out that what I got last night was a sermon for myself.
I preach from notes, an outline of my points with important phrases or concepts I want to be sure to include. I don’t write it out word for word. It’s not my style. My style is more free-flowing, more conversational. I want to be able to respond to the congregation and linger or move as I feel necessary. Or as the Holy Spirit dictates. And last night the Holy Spirit dictated.
The crux of the sermon is that in Romans 5:1-5 Paul details the membership perks that we receive when we become Christians. Once we accept Christ and become justified in our faith, we receive:
- Peace with God,
- Access to God,
- Hope in the glory of God,
- Joy in our sufferings,
- Holy Spirit, and
- a community of believers.
I relate these Christian Family Membership Perks to those of your average store, hotel, or airline perk program. I talk about each one a bit, offer some explanation, and tie it back to the analogy of the perk program. I end with a series of questions asking if you are qualified to be part of the plan and if you are using the perks? (It’s a great little outline and analogy for such a well-known passage. I plan to keep it around for quite some time. )
As I preached, the Holy Spirit took over. And I was particularly impassioned about the 4th point. I said things I did not plan, connected the perks in ways I had not been articulate enough to do before. It was beautiful to me, but it was not me. It was for me!
Paul writes, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” You and I can rejoice in our sufferings because we know that it is not the end. God’s heavenly glory is the end. And so God will see us through our earthly sufferings. And when we come out on the other side, we will have a story to tell-a testimony-to lift each other up. Sometimes I will need your story to lift me up. And other times, you will need my story to lift you. But our suffering is not the end, it is an opportunity to grow and an opportunity to share hope and in that we rejoice.
I am struggling, struggling for inner peace, about the same old issue for over four years now. There are times I find a balm, but it is never far from my mind. It creeps back and tortures me. And this is one of those times of year, as another school year starts and I am not in a classroom, that I am particularly tormented.
These words were meant for me. They are not my words, but God’s comfort to me through the Holy Spirit. To help me hang on, to give me hope, to affirm of my gifts. That He knows. That He hears. That He loves.