I was watching a sermon on the Internet of Will Willimon,. "Our Last, Best Hope." I wanted to two things from this message: 1) to see how this famous pastor preached; and 2) to hear what God would say through him. He spoke from Luke 20:27-38 where the Sadducees tried to trap Jesus with a question about marriage and the resurrection. Intriguingly, he didn't really deal with the issue, neither will I. He spent much of his time contrasting liberal Christians who like to talk about life in the here and now, and he differed them with conservative Christians who like to think of life eternal. Yet, he said, it is those conservative Christians who think of life eternal who do the most good in the here and now. By the way, he was speaking to his own liberal mainline church.
He closes with this story. He and another pastor from his city agreed to a pulpit swap. In other words, Will would speak for him one Sunday, and the other pastor would speak for Will. This pastor's church was in the "tough" part of the city. Well, on the morning of Will's time to preach at the other pastor's church, he arrived in the parking lot at 10:40 a.m. The service was to begin at 11:00 a.m. No one else is there. The parking lot is empty. The pastor pulls in about 11:05 a.m. The choir was there around 11:10 a.m. They sang five hymns and two anthems and had two offerings, and by the time Will got up to preach, it was 12:30 p.m. He spoke for about 15 minutes and then sat down. The other pastor stands up and asks him, "Is that all?" Will says, "Yes, that's it." That pastor then proceeds to speak another 15 minutes extemporaneously. At the conclusion of the service, Will and the pastor were not speaking in the parking lot until 1:45 in the afternoon. Will then asks, "How come you take so long to worship?" The pastor explained the problems his congregation faces. Their neighborhood battles 18% unemployment for men and 21% unemployment for young adults. The pastor then proceeds to describe the other hardships of the neighborhood and because they have little, the world considers them worthless. Thus, the pastor emphasizes their royalty and value in the eyes of Christ. They were bought with a price by Jesus. The world is telling them a lie. The pastor then tells Will, "it takes about an hour and 45 minutes to get their head straight." Then the pastor asks, "Now how long does it take for your people to get their head straight in your neighborhood?" Will asks that question, says "Thanks be to God," and sits down.
That is a paraphrase of the story. You may watch it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lgepdMzXfs. Is that not part of the reason we gather together as a congregation, to get our head straight? The world pulls us one way. If we don't go with them, we are considered worthless. We wrestle with our own desires that pull us the wrong way. We do spiritual battle all week. We sometimes, if not often, forget how much we are valued by Jesus Christ. Thus, we need to spend time getting our head and our heart lined up with God's Word and God himself. Each week we gather to get our heads straight.