A Fine Line
My dad isn't much of a fisherman, but he has his one fishing joke that I've heard him say more than once or twice: There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore looking like an idiot. Today I'm thinking of this same principle as it applies to sitting under the preached Word.
We were privileged to have Paul Wolfe, Associate Pastor at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, VA, come fill in as a guest preacher this Sunday. Before he delivered a wonderful sermon, he pointed out something in our bulletin that pleased him. Right before the title and text of the sermon for the week, our bulletin says: The preaching of the Word is an ordinance of God for our salvation. Paul said that he had good reason to believe that this important line was in our bulletin every week. The reason why he could say that was because when he opened his hymn book to sing, he found last week's bulletin tucked in there, and was able to find the same line.
After reading this line from our bulletin, Paul looked at us and asked, "Why are we doing this?" He asked it in a way that made us feel exposed. Why do we get up every Sunday morning and come sit together on these pews? What the heck were we doing there? Why did he drive over an hour to come fill in as a guest preacher? Why were we hanging on his every word?
Paul drew our attention to the word ordinance in that statement. That's why. He explained how throughout our week, we get discouraged as we try to live as we are called. We are tempted and sometimes fall into sin. We are weary in the race that is the Christian life. We forget who we are and what Christ has done. We fall into our default mode of self-righteousness. But "God has ordained the preaching of the Word so that we may be rescued yet again." We were there because God ordained it. And that makes all the difference.
But this line tells us even more. Rev. Wolfe explained that it also tells us why God has ordained the preaching of the Word: for our salvation. It is a means of grace. Sure, to those who are not called, those without faith, we may look like a bunch of idiots rolling out of bed on Sunday morning to sit in a pew and listen to some guy preach. But there is something happening that they do not understand. We are receiving grace. We are being nourished by the very Word of God! We are blessed in Christ!
A fine line indeed! One that I will never take for granted again. And with that impromptu introduction, I think we were all in eager expectation to listen to the preached Word that we had been summoned to sit under. And it was a blessing to our souls.
*I was especially excited to see Paul Wolfe's name on our church sign as my family pulled into the parking lot on Sunday morning because we had interviewed him on Mortification of Spin. That interview has really stuck with me in a pastoral way. You can listen to it here.