by Spencer Lemley
These last couple of months, I have been praying the Franciscan Blessing:
“May God Bless you with DISCOMFORT at easy answers, half- truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with ANGER at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”
I prayed for discomfort and boy did I get it. I recently decided to move to Ohio and live in community with past friends. I left Detroit, the city that I love, with a loving christian community and a real sense of purpose. I was full time homeschooling the Williams family, tutoring in my neighborhood, serving anyone who would give me a key to their house, and enjoying a weekly sabbath at the neighborhood coffee shop. Life was amazing and I was busy with every gift God granted me, I was serving. I felt at peace. Which is why I love a God who will ask me to move to Ohio in a weekend decision.
My roommate hates the church and simply wants nothing to do with it, Jesus, or any other name for God. I thought perfect! I can finally use my discipleship training for someone who needs it. I can live in community and love on him with everything I got. We were having good conversations, working at the same job together, and sharing meals. A christian's dream! One night we got in a fight because I felt as if he wasn’t treating me correctly and he felt as if I was pushing my religion on him. After an intense talk we compromised and he really preached to me. He said, “you will never convince me to follow your God, and honestly I just want to be friends.” The Holy Spirit just shouted through him. Did this professing atheist just give me the sermon I needed to hear!? Yes… the answer is YES!
There is a famous quote that is given to St. Francis: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” If you have experienced me, you may know that I love conflict. But conflict should never build walls. Christians do not build walls. For us, follows of Jesus, every situation is always a “we” thing, not a “us” versus “them” thing. I was speaking out of turn and trying to show him the “correct” way to live. I was using my own words not the words of the Holy Spirit. “All my friends are heathens take it slow. Wait for them to ask you who you know. Please don’t make any sudden moves. You don’t know the half of the abuse.” - 21 pilots
It is hard for me not to teach. It is what God has gifted me, but maybe my idea of teaching and evangelism was off. I grew up experiencing the Greek style of teaching. There is a teacher in the front of the class who has all the answers and as a student I listened. In contrast, the Hebrew style of teaching is set up where everyone is on a equal playing field, teacher and student alike. In the greek style it is important for the student to have the right answers but in Hebrew style it is important to have the right questions. It is written in Romans 2:21, “However, the real question is not whether you are a good teacher, how good a student are you? What’s the good of teaching against stealing when you yourself steal” (Mirror Bible.) In order for me to evangelize and spread this joy news, I must be the biggest student of the Lord. I must spend intentional time with God everyday. I must worship in everything I do. I must follow the spirit’s leading and let the Holy Spirit do the talking.
So what does that mean for my life? Great question! I will spend intentional time with God reading over a Psalm and journaling every morning on my way to work. At work, I will worship because they are the same thing anyway. #AVAD On my way home, I will pray the prayer of St. Francis. I will worship through my food and eating habits and workout daily because the body affects the mind and the soul. I will stay sharp in study by reading over a couple textbooks James let me borrow from his pastor courses. And, still have time to squeeze in an episode of “This is Us.” That is how I will spread the Joy News!
The best sermon you can ever preach is one you preach to yourself.
This blog was written in response to our Palm Sunday message, "if these were silent" - watch the sermon at the link below.