I occasionally visit a church with 3-4,000 members. A mega-church some would call it. Yesterday a guest pastor gave a sermon based on 1st Timothy 1:12-16. Let me first qualify my subsequent comments to say this: Christianity is lifelong learning for me. Some days I “get it”. Some days I probably should just pull the covers up and wait till the light shines again. Yesterday I got something that made me wonder about not just me, but people in general. The pastor was a heavily-accented Puerto Rican, so he said, but I found no problem understanding every word he spoke. Did he make that claim to apologize for those of us who would not get his message? Give us a scapegoat? That’s not fair. I understood his words clearly, and think I also even understood the basis of what he explained those words to mean: namely, no matter how anti-Christian, ill- or well-intentioned or insufferable we are, God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness are available to each one of us in accepting what Jesus did by his crucifixion, death and resurrection for us. As Paul says in this passage, ” … He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.” (v v. 12a, 13) (1) God’s love extends to each one of us. Every human on the planet. Every day. You do realize what that means, don’t you? Not just you, or me, but every jail-incarcerated prisoner, every prisoner to addiction or habit, every individual with pre-meditated malice or evil, even every terrorist. Every person.
So I looked over those seated in this vast congregation. I’m thinking to myself, How many of these people who are hearing this sermon, including me, are actually listening? How many of us will leave this place reassured knowing God’s love is for us? For me? For you? And will know the absolute, pure joy of that forgiveness, grace and love that we accept in what Jesus did for each of us? Or do we just get back in our cars, drive to the restaurant to meet other church-goers, or drive ourselves or our families home maybe arguing on the way what chores need to be done or how some offhand comment made us feel? Will we remember what we heard in that sermon by the Puerto Rican-accented pastor?
Will we live it?
(1)Holy Bible, New American Standard version