This week I was at a conference with a great preaching teacher – Dr. David Schmitt. He was one of my favorite professors in Seminary. It is fun to go back into those situations and remember when learning how to be a pastor was my main job. Dr. Schmitt has so much skill, and he certainly brought those who attended up on the times. One of the amazing things he does is say things that become a huge aha moment. I know the stuff he says in my head, but when he says it out loud, it hits home and the light turns on. That happened again at this conference. This one is so good that I questioned whether to tell this story so quickly or to save it, but I trust God will give me more moments like this to preach on. Anyway, we were talking specifically about how God cares for us, and how to preach on that. Dr. Schmitt said, “When my mom says, ‘Well, I have all these things to pray for. I am not sure God has time to listen to me.’ ” In his frank and matter of fact way, Dr. Schmitt replied, “Mom, God’s eternal. He’s got time. Trust me.” Aha! Yeah, that is totally right!
So often in my life and ministry I hear this type of comment, questioning if God has time for me. I am pretty sure I have thought that a time or two as well. To have Dr. Schmitt say it so matter of factly, and with those words, it was so clear. It is our human nature to define time by our standards, not God’s. I knew this, but having someone say this truth out loud cut so deep.
I pray a series like this does that for you. Over the last three months we have not been talking about subjects and ideas that are all that mind altering. Rather, we have been talking about Jesus’ values, outcomes, and strategies, and how He gives them to His people. Yet, like my experience with Dr. Schmitt, when you say them out loud you realize how common yet true they are, and intentionally implement them even more in your life and conversations. This happens over and over again for me after I preach on these subjects, or even just prepare to preach on them.
Over the last several weeks I spent more time with Charlie and Viola. Viola had been at Mt. Calvary since 1936. This was her second home. This week her final service was held here. When someone has been a member here for that long, you know that they were shaped by many values that happened in this place. Viola, with her loving smile and tender care, was always there for her family. They describe her deep love and how they knew they could count on her. I watched her husband, Charlie, and her son, Charles, sit with her everyday in the hospital, and eventually in hospice. Every time I came to visit her, they were always there, capturing every moment with her up to the end. The value of love was deep in their heart, and they were living out what Viola always did for them. It is moving for me to watch what God has done in a family like that. Jesus’ love is deep in their hearts. He is the greatest and unfailing example of someone who is always there for us.
If I were to tell Viola that it is a strategy to Love 1, I think it would play out like Dr. Schmitt, his mom and the story that God is eternal. Viola knew, and Charlie knows that Love 1 has always been a strategy of Mt. Calvary, but now we are communicating it and defining it. Sometimes that makes it stronger and puts it on the front of our lips. It also helps us to think through how we want to carry it out. While stories like Viola and Charlie have happened and will continue to happen, a series like this prepares us to be intentional in that way. For instance, I am pretty sure that every time someone questions if God has enough time for their prayers, I will now respond, “He’s eternal. He’s got time. Trust me.” This weekend I pray that Jesus, who is always there for us out of His love for us, moves in our hearts so that we can intentionally Love 1 as a church.