I want to write about today’s sermon. (So yeah, God’s gonna show up in this blog). I imagine it’s not easy to give an inspiring sermon from a screen. I mean you are literally flattened as a preacher, expressing ideas and observations through a medium that everyone is tired of looking at. But today “my” Pastor (I haven’t had a chance to officially join this church yet so I have to put that in quotes, I think) Lucious Smith of Friendship Pasadena Church gave a sermon!
Now a lot of times when we hear sermons –or TED Talks, or literary readings, or the like — that speak to us it is because, as much as anything, we were meant to hear it. I mean sometimes it’s a snippet of dialogue on a bus (remember buses?!), or a poem shared on social media, but when a preacher preaches well then it really travels deep inside you. Preaching, really preaching, in my amateur view necessitates humility plus passion. Take a moment to think of how many people you know who walk around with those two characteristics. Pastor Smith seems to be one of those people.
The sermon title today was The Road to Revival. Friendship Pasadena Church apparently has a history that includes a moment where friction turned to faction in the church. Friendship is not alone in this experience, as many churches undergo seasons of change. Pastor was briefly recounting, in his sermon, that particular history while also paralleling the moment with the times we are in now. “From Survival to Revival,” was the theme. As in, we’re not trying to “go back to normal,” but instead to go forward to what is yet to come, what we are yet to do. I love this right here. After all, no one I know really believes we should be going back to much of anything. Logistically, perhaps (like attending concerts), but not socially(racism), culturally(individualism), politically(nationalism), etc. We clearly have far, far to go.
Part of being revived, of participating in a revival, is following visions that we Christians believe emanate from God. It’s so cool to see visions, to imagine what could be. I am sure many of you have had such visions, and followed through on them. You may well be sitting in your vision at this moment. I am in one of mine, for sure: California living with a yard to call my own. I saw that. Thing is, it’s what we do with these visions that really matters, Smith reminds us. Like we need to be patient and not push to make the thing happen immediately. We also have to be faithful, to God, and also to the process, whatever that seems to be looking like. And we have to be diligent. Like you have stuff to do in order to facilitate that vision. As Pastor Smith said, and has repeated in the past several times, sometimes we are waiting around for God to do the thing God’s waiting around for us to do! Crazy to think about, right?
Another component of being revived — individually or collectively — is repentance. You’re about to see one reason I really vibe with this Pastor, because he’s interested in word origins, too! So, repent comes from the Greek for think differently. It’s not necessarily about rending your clothes so much as about changing your mindset. “…rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13). And by the way it’s much easier to tear a shirt than change a thought. Just saying. One of the things Smith suggests we might need to repent for? “Small expectations.” Yeah, like if we really want to learn to sew, as a friend revealed to me recently, then make a big plan. Sign up for a class because you have the goal of sewing a dress for your first day back at the office; or making shirts for all the kids on the team you coach. Whatever you do, don’t just say, “I’m going to learn to sew some day.” That’s kind of insulting to God, like going to the ice cream store and exclaiming how good everything looks and then walking out the door. (Top of my head metaphor, c’mon)!
Pastor Smith said that “God gives us everything in seed form.” Wow. I was thinking how impatient I am with planting seeds in my garden. How they just take too long to bear flowers and that I end up buying potted plants and herbs because I don’t want to wait! Yikes. Plant the seeds and do whatever it is you need to be doing while the seed grows. Prepare yourself for the fruit of the seed. For me that might mean learning how to garden in the desert after living for three decades on the East Coast. (Where I wasn’t such a Green Thumb anyway)!
There are things we just might not be able to do. Truth. But God can do anything. If I believed all the people who said I couldn’t do anything, that I was making a mistake, a dumb decision, I would be so far from my revival path. But I had faith that the visions would not have come to me in the first place if I was not supposed to see them, and act upon them. One can be “responsible,” explained Pastor Smith, that’s a good thing to be at times. But, “then there’s God…” That’s the supernatural stuff we don’t have the ability to create, but sure have witnessed in our lives. All I can say is, Can I get a witness?! Seriously, what are you reviving? In yourself? Your family? Your community? This weary world? I’d love to know. And peace be with you as you go.