Sunday, April 11, 2004

My Easter Sermon

I'm in Houston (Woodlands/Conroe area) for Easter this year. This is the first time we've been in Texas for Easter in over 8 years. This is one of Kim's favorite holidays as she has fond memories of big family gatherings, fun-filled children's activities and a massive egg hunt. Suffice it to say, I was glad that we got to come down. Yesterday, Saturday, John asked if we missed being in Redwood City and specifically the Redwood Church to which I replied, "I do, I especially miss preaching." This eventually lead to the topic of church and to where and when (and why in some adolescent minds) we were going to church for Easter Sunday. I had heard of The Fellowship of the Woodlands and was determined to lead the family there today (Sunday) for church. I can't speak for the remainder of the clan (could, but won't) but I was really excited to "hear" an Easter Sermon by a pastor of a large "successful" church. We are, in fact about 20 minutes away from leaving to go to church there but I am not as anxious to "hear" the sermon. I already have "seen" an Easter sermon. Let me explain.

Last night at about 6:00pm Houston was hit by a nasty thunderstorm. Softball size hail, deadly lightning, a tornado or two, and a Niagara of rain beat down on the area. My brother in law, Keith (Kim's older sister's husband), the guru of the grill, was in the middle of grilling our grub when the call came. One of his friend's home fell victim to a falling tree. The tree had crushed through the roof of their child's room and rain was filling the room. Keith's heart was immediately filled with compassion and he told the caller that "he'd be right over." I witnessed this act of kindness as I witness most others - oblivious of the spiritual significance and unmoved myself to action. Kim, as usual, opened my eyes to the opportunity to participate in the Samaritan situation. She said, "Joel, you should go with him to help those people" and then she gave me that look. (All the husbands say "Amen") To which I replied ever-so-spirit-filled, "What about my shoes?" You see, I had only brought one pair of shoes with me on this quick trip and they, ironically enough, were my "church shoes" as in the shoes that I would wear into the Lord's "house" tomorrow (today). The combination of Kim's face and the Spirit's filling forced me into a commitment. Together, they are an almost unstoppable force! We loaded up in Keith's wrecker (a tow truck - not a junkie car) and headed for a nice drive into a little place I've affectionately dubbed, "Vortexville" as we drove into the storm. We safely arrived at the home and entered the room that looked like it could fit in the Rainforrest Cafe. While waiting for the lightning to subside we cautiously cleared out the room of priceless pieces of memorabilia, more than mindful of the roof completely caving in on top of us. We finally decided that the lightning was not going to go away, we moved outside to remove the rogue tree from its unwanted nesting in the roof.

Keith and I began to chain saw the tree into sections. (For those of you wondering how two people can operate a chain saw . . . OK, Keith did the chain sawing while I stood in the storm and smiled. I did, however, get the saw 'unstuck' from the tree that Keith got it 'stuck' into . . . so I wasn't completely useless!) It was like a scene from a movie. My brother in law is standing on the top of a box blade lifted 10 feet in the air, rising up to the roof. Lightning crashing in around on every side and thunder booming so hard the ground shook in response. I watched in awe (at his servant heart and the fact that he was moving so quickly on a slippery roof) as he, for the next 20 minutes risked his life (lightning) and back (slip and hit the ground) for his friend.

As we loaded up the truck and drove home, lightning still popping, thunder still booming, God spoke to me about what I had just witnessed. My brother in law had just done the very thing that God has asked me to do countless times over and over again without thinking about it for one second. I realized that I had seen a great glimpse of the sacrifice that I wanted to go "celebrate" tomorrow (today). I became convicted about what being a "pastor" really means and what constitutes "success" after all. Keith, preached to me that night and the crazy thing is he didn't even know it.

So as I walk out the door to go "hear" the Easter sermon I am reminded that its better to have "dirty" shoes and a pure heart than the other way around.

Keith is not going to church with us. . .

He is outside cooking for about 50 of his family, neighbors and friends. In fact, he's been up since 4:30 am cooking.

What a sermon!

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