When the sermon is not the message

Is this where I picked up the Tick that gave me Lyme disease?

Sometimes the sermon has little to do with what God wants to communicate.

I am starting the practice of  having a person share what God has been doing during  the week at our worship services.  This is a bit new for Lutherans.  Some people call it testimony.  We are only into the second week of doing this in our congregation.  I had asked a young man, a high school graduate a few weeks ago,  who for the first time had served as a counselor at our confirmation camp to share how he saw God at work at camp last week.  He agreed, but I had no idea what he was going to say.

So at the end of the service, Matt told of a youth in his cabin who had seemed distant from what was going on.  A camper who said he was there only because he had been dragged into it.  Who admitted he wasn’t very religious.  Who had  acted like he was not participating throughout the week.  Who, I can guess, was a challenge for any counselor.

But by the end of the week, this young person did the stations of the cross (yes, I know we’re Lutherans) with his group through the woods at the camp, ending with a labyrinth under hemlock trees.   (A labyrinth is an intentional prayer walk, an ancient tradition,  through a maze-like circle toward the center and back out again. It is done silently and thoughtfully.)  This young person was obviously affected by the experience and asked his counselor, Matt, to take him back to the labyrinth at rest time….an unusual request which, I am sure, took some scheduling changes but which Matt did.   Matt and this young man walked the labyrinth together again.  And, to put it simply,  this young person was drawn to faith in Christ.

Well, Matt told this story to the congregation today.  I was unprepared for such a story of God’s grace, and suddenly I knew what the point of the sermon (about discipleship) was : a congregation enabled a young counselor to be available to a young camper who encountered Jesus Christ.  Neither Matt, nor the congregation, nor I did this—but (through Matt’s story) we witnessed what Jesus did.

If all we did was to read the gospel story today about welcoming (Matthew 10)  and if Matt only had told the camp story today,  that would have been enough to pray, share the meal and go out to love and serve the Lord with full hearts, a few tears, and a joyful sense of the reward of being disciples—of witnessing our Lord in action.

Thanks be to God!





  1. Beth Mark says:

    Beautiful, Elaine. Very interesting to gain insight into the Lutheran perspective!