Sunday, April 29, 2012

Practicing the Words we Preach

While Saint Francis is known best probably for his relationship to animals, the religious society he founded was actually a band of preachers.  The brothers (they were not ordained) would be sent out, walking, the towns and villages to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven.

I have been thinking about preaching lately.  We all preach-whether we do so from a pulpit or with our buying power-because we are all proclaiming what is important to us.  No matter where I am, at church functions, at work, at home, with friends, with patients, with strangers, I try to be the same person.  Sure, I tweak it a little to relate or for the occasion, but I never want someone that is unexpectedly there to not recognize me. 

But, even beyond being genuine, there is a sense of having integrity.  Two weeks ago I was at a seminar where, in the ladies restroom, I saw the coolest infection control sign.  I wanted to steal it.  I had no idea where the health services might be located, so I did not have a way to ask for a copy.  I knew it would be helpful in a nursing lecture.  I knew it would be free if I took it, so I wouldn't have to bother my boss to buy something. I had justified it right into my bag.  When I left the campus, the sign was still in the bathroom.

Sure, it is just a public service announcement poster.  It had already fallen off the wall and was stuck in a crack on the counter top to hold it up.  Obviously no one wanted it-except me, right?  And while I can continure to rationalize why I should have taken it, I chose to walk away from it.  As stupid and small and insignificant as that poster might be, I am not a thief.

I am always working....not for my employer, but for my King.  I am always a witness of his grace, and I don't want anything so stupid and small and insignificant to become a barrier to those around me...to prove to them that I am not just a thief but also a liar.

We need to practice the words that we preach.

While integrity is important, another piece of this for me is faith.

I am actually pretty terrified of public speaking.  I realize there are people who love to speak, but that is not me.  And I mean any speaking where I am in the lead of more than 4 human beings looking at me to relay a message to them.  This may mean staff meetings of 20 to prayer with 5 to speaking to a church of 300.  I love to do it, tho.  I love to put myself in these crazy situations where I am out of my safety zone, when I must trust God.  I love watching God work.  I love being a part of God working.  I know that God shows up when I am unable-that words pour forth, that stories come together, that someone understands.

I love pinning my fear with faith (tho sometimes the wrestling can take hours).  This is my faith in action.  This is me walking through my fear of what will they think of me, will I look too fat, will they disregard me, will I stutter, will I trip...to resting in: Father, I promised that wherever you led I would follow and ain't nothing changed.

This happens when I am willing to look foolish, when I reach out to someone who looks like they might bite my head off, when I surrender the worry of my son's future to the care of God, when I pray for those missing rather than track themselves down myself, when I share God's love with strangers, when I share my time or treasure with someone in need and maybe have a little less than I thought I wanted.

And a remarkable thing happens: I find the truth in the saying that "You must give it away to keep it."  Of course, many know you have to spend money to make money, you have to work muscle to build muscle...that same logic follows spiritually-the more that I share my faith, care for others, or teach groups, the more of God I find within me...the more hope and faith and love...the more Kingdom of Heaven arrives to me.

I am rather a mess.  All one has to do is ask and I will show my wounds from my sin, but the healing is the grace.  The grace overwhelms me with gratitude, and that gratitude shows up in the joyful practice of my faith, despite my fear, despite temptation, despite my plans.

Take a moment to examine-what are you preaching?  If it isn't a message that you like, maybe it is time to figure out what is important to you and find more Grace.

No comments: