July 14, 2019

I think most folks here know that I grew up in the Pentecostal church where the services sometimes were what we called loud and proud.

We talked back to our preachers. And if a preacher didn’t get talked back to while they were preaching they were either not preachy enough, or just not loud enough.

For God so loved the world!

“That’s right!”

Jesus has come to set you free!
“Amen, preacher!”

If God be for us, who can be against us??

“Preach it, brother!”

Preach it! We heard that a lot when the sermons started getting really good back then.

Preach it! And when they said preach it, they meant say the words with more fire!

We had words. We had lots of words. And we knew how to use them to make people either feel some sort of euphoric ecstasy - or like they were dangling by their own choice over the fiery pits of the devil’s hell.

We had words….


A lot of folks have claimed the famous and motivating words, but most attribute them to Saint Francis of Assisi…

“Preach the Gospel. And if necessary, use words.”

[video 01] (autistic youth league football player)

Something beautiful, something good,

All my confusion, God understood.

All I had to offer was brokenness and strife.
But God made something beautiful of my life.

Isn’t it beautiful when all the other little kids recognize when something wonderful is happening? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more adults did?

[video 02] (waitress cares for young couple who lost baby)

See, there are adults who care. They are out there showing love and whether they are aware of it or not, they are preaching hard and doing the beautiful ministry of caring with something as simple as noticing a hurting heart and offering a free meal.

[video 03] (coffee servers pray with grieving customer)

Something beautiful, something good,

All my confusion, God understood.

All I had to offer was brokenness and strife.
But God made something beautiful of my life.

Evan was one of the incredibly thoughtful young men who prayed for that weeping customer. He said to another reporter that he isn’t a religious person, and doesn’t consider himself a believer. But he felt that joining the others in showing love and praying for the grieving woman was something meaningful, something beautiful he could do to help her through her grief.

[video 04] (teacher donates kidney to student’s mother)

I love seeing all of this beauty in the midst of worry and fear and pain. I love seeing this beauty that does more than make a bad day good or turn a frown into a smile. 

This is the kind of beauty that saves lives – in the drive-thru, in the dining room, on the football field, in schools…

[video 05] (first grader comforts his best friend with cancer)

Something beautiful, something good,

All my confusion, God understood.

All I had to offer was brokenness and strife.
But God made something beautiful of my life.

Have you ever seen such friendship? Little Zack, even in the middle of his cancer, is the luckiest the kid in the world because he has a friend like Vincent. Friends like Vincent are beautiful!

[video 06] (free mom hugs)

Oh, how we need more moms like Sara. Or like Sam said there just a minute ago, “We need a million Sara’s.” Imagine the people who’ve been discarded and thrown away who can be rescued and reminded of their own beauty and held in loving arms if we all did it like Sara. Imagine a world filled with Saras and Vincents and Donna and Pierce and Evan, and Kayla and Coach Paul and a stranger who gives away the shirt off his own back.

[video 07] (subway passenger gives the shirt off his back)

Several weeks ago I was here at the church one afternoon and noticed a man asleep on our front stoop. He wasn’t hurting anyone or anything. He had all of his stuff either under him as a bed or a pillow, or in a plastic bag down next to his feet. He simply needed a place to be, and our little stoop provided that for him that day.

It was obvious he was a homeless man. People who aren’t homeless don’t sleep on church stoops. But it wasn’t obvious whether he was breathing or if he was injured or if he was someone who could be violent. So, I called the police department’s non-emergency number and asked them to send an officer over to take a look.

Within just a few minutes an officer arrived, woke the man up and told him to grab his things and go.

I was sitting here in this room, watching it all from behind the glass. I could see them, but they couldn’t see me.

The officer wasn’t pushy or disrespectful to the man. He said nothing to him that was demeaning or hurtful. But his words cut me like a knife.

“You need to get up, this church doesn’t want you here.”

The blood drained from my face. My stomach tightened into a knot. My chest heaved and my heart dropped as low as it could possibly go.

I sat on this side of the glass and watched a man with very little - who was still hazy from his sleep, who had been suddenly awakened by a police officer - gather it all up without protest. I sobbed. I cried and wept and felt that I had let that man down… and that I had let down our church, and I had let down the Gospel that is supposed to be good news for homeless men and women and children and people in exactly the place, the condition he was in.

I didn’t feel beautiful. I didn’t feel beautiful at all. But I thank God for other opportunities that I’ve had since, and for other people who are beautiful and how they make others beautiful.

[video 08] (hairstylist cuts homeless men’s hair)

Something beautiful, something good,

All my confusion, God understood.

All I had to offer was brokenness and strife.
But God made something beautiful of my life.

[video 09] (mom packs extra lunch for son’s friend)

1 John 3: 17-18

17 But if someone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but refuses to help—how can the love of God dwell in a person like that?

18 Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.

Pam did an incredible job last week of leading us into Becoming Love. I know she had to grapple with how to begin a short talk on tall love.

Love is so large and expansive and encompassing. And when you add an even larger truth, the truth that God is Love, I can’t imagine that she didn’t grapple even more with where her talk would end.

How could it end when there is so much to say about God and about Love and about our place in it?

I guess we should all settle on the thought that we will probably never get to the end of saying all there is to say about it, but we can enjoy the conversation and delight in telling our world, SHOWING OUR WORLD that Love is God and God is Love and in so many, many ways, WE are the evidence of God’s Love in this world.

How beautiful is that?

As a matter of fact, during this series that we’ve called Becoming, I think it’s justified to say that all of the other things that we can become, that we have become over these last several weeks…

Beginning with Pastor Marsha and her words on Becoming Grateful

Then Pastor Pam and I in the weeks since…
Becoming Brave

Becoming Proud
Becoming Love

And today Becoming Beautiful

And the things we will Become in the next week or so…

All of these things can be a subtext of the bigger, all involving Becoming Love.


“Preach the Gospel. And if necessary, use words.”

Sometimes the Gospel is “preached” when all the other kids on the field make room for a very special touchdown.

Sometimes it’s “preached” through a meal that’s offered in love and concern.

Sometimes the Gospel is “preached” through a prayer that’s delivered through a drive-thru window to a grieving widow who expected nothing more than a cup of coffee.

Sometimes the sermon is a once-in-a-lifetime, literally life-saving monumental moment when a beautiful person literally offers her body to save the life of another.

Sometimes the Gospel is “preached” by two little boys who have a bond that cannot be restrained by cancer or contained by reason.

Sometimes it’s a mom-hug offered because the real mom won’t.

It’s in the middle of the big city and the shirt off a caring man’s back or helping people who’ve given up feel at least a little better about themselves, or making sure a child whose mom is down on her luck is able to eat.

Sometimes the Gospel is preached in a kid’s school lunch…

Isn’t that just beautiful?

Romans 10:13-15 CEB

All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.

So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news.

audio coming soon