Looking to heaven for affirmation

The aspect of our worship service which most worries me is the sermon, or the preaching of God’s Word. It’s the thing I put off until the weekend to prepare for and it’s the thing that makes me wake up Sunday morning feeling so unworthy and guilty for not having put much time into it. For the past month, we’ve been continuing our study of Romans, and I’ve been explaining a chapter or half each week. It’s not too hard to speak for 20 minutes, explaining what’s going on and giving an application at the end. I know that even though I don’t have formal training, the knowledge I have is still greater than what the EM kids have, and so they will benefit from what I share. Perhaps my dad would say that the messages I give are fine. But I feel I should be devoting more time to this.

Yesterday, I tried to find an audio sermon we could listen to on Romans. I listened to quite a few but found that some of them strayed off teaching and into random stories rather than focused on the exposition of God’s Word. I struggled to decide whether John Piper would be too difficult for the kids. Like many scholarly Reformed pastors, Pastor Piper has that hard-to-explain way of lengthening his sentences by adding clauses, verbs, or adjectives. I think I know where he’s coming from. Sometimes in my prayers I pause and try to find the right word to describe something but end up saying all the related words I can think of. Not, “Help us not to sin,” but “Help us to be above reproach, blameless in Your sight, pure, holy, righteous, sanctified, Christlike, to not turn to the left or the right, to walk in Your truth, to hold fast to the faith, and to turn our eyes from evil.” But what I love about Piper is his ability to exude the emotion or reaction the congregation should have as they hear God’s Word preached. From humility in his opening prayer to boldness against modern-day heresies to trembling contriteness at the revelation of God’s holy standard of righteousness to utter joy at the proclamation of the gospel, Piper is a man who understands that the “dogma is the drama” (Dorothy Sayers) and that the exposition of God’s Word incites reaction and takes us through the deepest expressions of our emotions.

So we listened to half of Piper’s sermon on Romans 10:5-13 today. The room was mostly quiet, which contrasted the disrespectful and immature behavior during praise. I paused intermittently during the first song because people were talking and fooling around even while I was playing and singing. I got annoyed when they paid more attention to the tambourine I brought for one of the kids to play instead of singing. It irritated me that the guy who normally did the overhead projector had someone else do it for him, who ended up not knowing any of the songs. He thought a strum pattern change indicated the next song, even though we obviously hadn’t finished singing the lyrics for the current song. It took him more than two lines of lyrics for one of the songs before he realized he had the wrong transparency up. And for our offering song, he couldn’t figure out which song to put up, even though it’s obvious that it’s the only song that we didn’t sing during praise. As we sang Behold, I became angry at the way they lacked any seriousness toward the powerful and convicting imagery of the lyrics. Rather than lash out (it’s very difficult to express anger in a restrained and selfless manner, especially in a leadership position), I diverted my frustration to my prayer and asked God to help us not to make a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice (cf. Hebrews 6:6). Here are the lyrics. I first heard this song at City Presbyterian Church in Long Beach.

Behold (You Alone Are Worthy)

Behold the Lamb who was scorned,
Who was mocked, who was abandoned
Behold the Lamb who was crushed,
Who was slain, who was broken
By Your wounds we are healed
Hallelujah for the blood that was spilled

You alone are worthy,
Are worthy to be praised
You alone are worthy,
Are worthy to be praised

Behold the Lamb who was raised,
Who’s alive, who has overcome
Behold the Lamb who is here,
Who’s at work, who’s among us
Glory be to the Son
Hallelujah for the things You have done

During the sermon, I could hear the clicking noises of the girls texting behind me, but other than that, I couldn’t hear anything. I wanted to take their phones and hurl them against the wall, but I chose instead to focus on understanding what Piper was preaching and not fretting over the possibility that they didn’t understand any of it. At the very least, they were hearing someone “different.” Different in ethnicity, different in age, different in wisdom and stature.

We ate lunch with the KM as we had a little celebration for this year’s graduates. It was overdue but at least we had something for them. I thought it was good.

It’s weird how once Sunday morning rolls around, my heart breaks for the church and I feel convicted of my weakness and unworthiness. There’s something about actually being in the “trenches” that reminds me of how much I need God. The sermon that seemed like such a task to listen to and evaluate last night, I approached this morning with a contrite heart. How thankful I was that God opened up the promises of the gospel to Gentiles. How thankful I was that the gospel has produced so much fruit in the Korean-American community. How thankful I was for the missionaries like Horace Allen and Horace Underwood who brought the gospel to Korea. I hope one day the kids realize this as well. They are blessed, truly blessed. Despite the childish ways they act, they are good kids. I just hope they are true believers.


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