THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
Lutheran Church of the Master
September 13, 2015
Isaiah 55, vs. 6-11
Inquire of the Lord while he is present, call upon him when he is close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their ways and evil men their thoughts. Let them return to the Lord, who will have pity on them, return to our God, for he will freely forgive.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.
This is the very word of the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return until they have watered the earth, making it blossom and bear fruit, and give seed for sowing and bread to eat, so shall the word which comes from my mouth prevail; it shall not return to me fruitless without accomplishing my purpose for succeeding in the task I give it.
There are three important questions I have asked myself in my life:
1) Does God exist?
2) What’s the most important thing to know in life?
3) What’s the most important thing to do in life?
Here’s what I’ve figured out so far.
At thirteen, I had a paper route. I delivered papers on my bike while wondering about the existence of God. I was a good paperboy and got off my bike to drop the paper behind the screen door at each house. Walking back to my bike, I thought,
“God, if you’re there, make my bike fall over.”
At that moment, when I was still about twenty feet away, my bike fell over. There was no wind. The driveway was solid and my bike had a good kickstand. It was clear to me what caused it to fall.
It was like God was saying, “Yes, I exist, and okay, I’ll perform this genie-in-a-bottle trick for you just this once. But don’t forget it.”
I thought, “I should have asked for a Jaguar.”
I always felt God existed, but wondered about it, too. The bike falling over instantly at my request freaked me out, and I still think of it. You could argue about the causes for it now, but at that time, it was good enough for me to know that God exists.
Later, when I was sixteen, my dad lay in bed dying of cancer. He was a Lutheran pastor. I had sung in church that day, and he was listening to me sing on a tape recorder. He was crying when I came in the bedroom. I asked him why he was crying and he said, “You are now singing about the things I have been preaching my whole life.”
I always remember that when I sing now.
I think singing is like shouting. At least the way I do it. And if you’re going to shout something, or sing it, it better be worthwhile.
So now I do it for God, I do it for my dad, and I do it for people who need it, including myself. My singing started as a way to show off, but now I try to use it for a higher purpose. When I walk up to sing a solo in church, I think, “This is not about you.” It helps me focus on the meaning of the song and also helps me get over any nervousness.
I asked dad how he prepared a sermon, and he told me when he was young he wrote out the whole thing and read it. One Sunday, he lost his sermon and was forced to jot down a few important points and wing it. The congregation loved the sermon and he never read anything again. He wrote it all out, but he just used an outline to give the sermon.
He said the most important thing to say in every sermon is “God loves you.” God loves you. It’s the most important thing to say, and it’s the most important thing to know. God loves us and we belong to him.
When danger or trouble come up, I am usually afraid for a while and then think, “Oh, that’s right, I’m supposed to trust God. God loves me.”
I belong to God – not the boss, the client, the teacher, the bill collector or others who make claims over our lives. And there are many. I am in God’s hand and will not be afraid.
When I think over the past, I wonder, “What was I so afraid of? Didn’t things turn out all right?” Perhaps I can use my knowledge that the past turned out all right to live this day, this night, this week, this year with greater sureness that it’s going to be all right, just like it has been. In other words, stop fussing already. Show a little confidence in God, a little faith. Hasn’t God already pulled us all out of some fires? I’m sure of it.
What is the most important thing to do?
I have many things I want to do in life – a whole list of things I can spend time obsessing about, but, what is my highest priority? A long time ago I read somewhere that our highest priority is to praise God. I agree. Praise God. I can do that. We’re doing it now. We’re achieving our highest priority right now – sitting here.
But somehow, that doesn’t seem like enough. Doesn’t our praise need something else? Hollywood-style polish? Las Vegas-style glitz? New York-sized effort? Not really.
“Your ways are not my ways.”
I wonder about the difference in what God sees as important compared to what we see as important.
In heaven I’ll say, “So you were impressed by my awards, good deeds, singing my head off, business success and other accomplishments?” God might say, “Yes, yes, I’m glad you had fun. But the thing I remember most was the time you gave that homeless guy two bucks on La Cienega Boulevard.”
“That was it?”
“Yes, that, and when you sat in church and told me, “You’ve got it – you are the beginning and ending of my universe, you are the power behind my life and everything in it, and I’m reflecting the glory, acclamation and honor that comes my way back to you, the source.”
We say it all the time, in slightly different words:
“For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”