Today's sermon title is "Perseverance with a Passion." I was
tempted not to preach on that because I had come up with that
title back in September when I was writing articles for the
October Herald. And having just come back from vacation, I wanted
to share some of my insights with you, and then I realized that it
all came together anyway under that title. The Holy Spirit never
ceases to amaze me. I don't know why I get amazed, really. After
all, it's no more than what one should expect from the Holy
Every year as I turn another year older in celebrating a
birthday, I pray about my year past and my year ahead. I read
Scripture seeking the auspices for my year ahead. I looked at my
past year here at Trinity and saw that membership was up and
giving was up, which, actually has been the case since even in the
first half year I was here. That's not something you'll hear from
a Stewardship Board, however. They don't celebrate those kinds of
things. They just keep focusing on what they see as lack, setting
budgets out of a sense of lack instead of the abundance with which
the Lord has blessed the congregation, and they do that in part
because they anticipate the response of the congregation to be one
that will focus on lack rather than abundance, which is a shame
because I'm not sure they, or the congregation are able to see and
appreciate the abundance we have to celebrate.
When I picked up my mail yesterday, which the post office had
held for the past 11 days while I was gone, I was overwhelmed to
find I had received over a hundred cards and even a number of
gifts, combinations of birthday greetings and words of
appreciation for my ministry here.
I'm very grateful for such an effusion of expression about my
ministry, but it is really OUR ministry. I do my part and you do
your part. It works that way. Some times I do your part as well as
mine, but it's really not your fault. In some cases you don't know
that something is your part to do, and added to that, even if you
know it's your part, you haven't done it before and don't know how
to do it. Unfortunately, when I arrived and started doing what
three pastoral staff had been doing, I discovered that they had
been doing many things that YOU all should have been doing. That
wasn't really fair to you since it robbed you all of the joy of
doing the work of the Lord as Lay Ministers. It robbed you of your
enthusiasm and passion for working for the Lord.
As I looked at my ministry here with you I realized that I was
trying to change you and that has been wasted energy on my part.
In the Gospel lesson today, often the focus is on the woman's
perseverance in trying to change the judge's mind, and that
finally happens. So, it seems to say if we persist, we can change
But that misses the point of the story. She wasn't trying to
change the judge's mind. She was working on accomplishing
something. In the course of her doing that, the judge appears to
change his mind. But he didn't have a choice, really. She worked
at what she wanted to accomplish with such passion that he didn't
have any choice but to grant it to her.
Truly, when you work to accomplish something which is just and
fair, that creates so much good energy that those who would oppose
it are swept up in the passion and go along with it.
It was a wonderful recognition for me on vacation to see that
in my ministry here I only had to do my part and let the Holy
Spirit do its part and you would all do your part. I don't have to
expend my energy to change you. That's not my calling. My calling
is to present to you the limitless possibilities and opportunities
available to you through the power of God working in your lives.
It is my ministry to help you see that and take hold of it for
your lives. It is my ministry to support you in anything you wish
It is my ministry to celebrate who you are and help you see the
incredible way you and this church have been blessed and continue
to be blessed. It is my ministry to help you see and focus on the
abundance there is here so that you can step out and work for the
Lord in confidence and assurance that even if you take a risk, God
will walk with you every step of the way. It isn't that God
assures you that what you risk for the Lord will come to fruition
the way you intend, but it DOES assure you that whatever you risk
will not be wasted.
And, actually, that's what being a Christian in service to the
Lord is all about-taking risks. When you take a risk for the Lord,
you are letting God, the Holy Spirit, guide you, because you know
that you can't accomplish it on your own. If you could, you
wouldn't call it a "risk."
I've said it many times in sermons and in Bible studies, that
what Jesus is teaching is a new way of thinking, a spiritual way
of thinking. He asks us to "think outside the box." He asks us to
take risks for the Gospel; to take risks for the sake of the
world, take risks for the sake of this congregation of gathered
So, we're in ministry together here whether you're a member or
friend of Trinity or a visitor. Visitors aren't really visitors
anyway unless they aren't part of any congregation anywhere. If
you're part of a congregation somewhere then God's house is your
home wherever you go. For those who have no home congregation
God's house is always your house, a place where you are welcome, a
place where God would love to have you make your home.
I'm not going to use my energy to change you, only present you
with opportunity after opportunity to work for the Lord. And I'm
going to show you over and over how blessed you have been and how
God continues to bless you and how much abundance there is here
and how much more awaits you and I'm going to say it and say it
and say it and the power of the Holy Spirit will keep my passion
alive and on fire, and will keep alive the passion that is already
manifest in so many of you who have been swept up in the passion
of believing, then at some point, if you haven't been swept up int
he passion, you will wonder how you could have held out as long as
you did!! And more so, why you even held out at all!?
Be like the woman in our Gospel story. The focus is not on the
change, the end result, but on the process. The process is what
brings about any change because of what is accomplished.
Whatever you want to accomplish for the Lord, persevere, and
persevere with passion.