|Kathy and Linda, in Cancun|
Sometimes, after I give a sermon, someone comes to me and tells me how much they loved something I said. And this "something" was not even what I was talking about. It may have been an incidental point, or an attempted joke. But it was not the meat of the sermon.
I spend ten to twenty hours a week on every sermon I give. I find the beef and marinate in it. On Sunday morning, I serve it up. Are people listening? Some are. Some are not. Some are texting people, probably not about how much spiritual food is being dished out. Some minds are elsewhere. Some are battling sleep. Some have lost that battle. For the most part, none of this bothers me much. I am called by God to do something, and I am going to do it to the best of my ability.
Maybe what I say with my words is not as important as what I say with my life? Maybe how I love others and am hopefully kind to them is what leaves the greater impact? Maybe how I help them in their time of need, how I pray for them before the surgery, and how I am with them in their grief - maybe that is what leaves the mark that lasts? And doing all this, not in the vain quest to leave some personal legacy, but because I love them?
Dallas Willard seems to think so. He writes:
"The people to whom we minister and speak will not recall 99 percent of what we say to them. But they will never forget the kind of persons we are. This is certainly true of influential ministers in my own past. The quality of our souls will indelibly touch others for good or for ill. So we must never forget that the most important thing happening at any moment, in the midst of all our ministerial duties, is the kind of person we are becoming." (Willard, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship, Kindle Locations 1833-1835)
Some of my people write down things I say in my sermons. They tell me about it, and say God spoke to them through me. That is so encouraging! But people are watching us before they are listening to us. Even if they do not hear all that we say, our love for them can go beyond what they can hear.