About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service. The Twelve called a meeting of all the disciples and said, “It isn’t right for us to set aside proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables. Brothers and sisters, carefully choose seven well-respected men from among you. They must be well-respected and endowed by the Spirit with exceptional wisdom. We will put them in charge of this concern. As for us, we will devote ourselves to prayer and the service of proclaiming the word.” (Acts 6:1-4 CEB)
We’ve all heard it and perhaps have said it, likely more than once:
“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.”
The genius of this statement is that it works on so many levels at the same time. Is the statement saying: (a) sermons aren’t necessarily the most pleasant of things to sit through, (b) it’s all well and good to talk about faith, but religion that isn’t lived is useless, (c) the integrity of the preacher isn’t found so much in what they say, but what they do, (d) a great deal of what passes for religion is just hot air, (e) or let the preacher do it since he seems to be the one all fired up to talk about it?
But to say “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one anyday” is to only look at one side of the coin. In order to appreciate the full value of it all, I submit we need to flip it over and look at the other side of things. And so:
“Unless you hear a sermon someday, you’ll never see one.”
After all, where would you be without the message? If you never encountered the message, how would you know what to live or how to live it? Living may be more pleasant than listening, but without listening, how will anyone know hot to live? Or even if somehow you know of the Christ, where is the integrity of living for him if you will not speak to him or of him?
And so, when it comes to practicing Christian faith, what could possibly be at least as important as feeding starving widows? Prayer and preaching. When it comes to making sure Christian faith continues, which is most crucial: to love in word or deed? Both are essential. How will we give genuine witness of the living God to a world gone mad? By living a life of dependence on God in prayer, a declaration of God in preaching, and a demonstration of God in practice.
It’s a matter of balance and respect and the forces that ever threaten to throw us out of balance or breed disrespect must always be confronted. When we find ourselves neglecting talking with God for all that we’re doing, we’re doing too much and must find our true center once more. When we find ourselves impatient with receiving, or unwittingly hindering the proper preparation to preach God’s word, we must re-examine our priorities. When we find ourselves occupied with many words and few deeds, we do neither those who hear our words or the Author who gives us the words any great honor.
Holy Father, direct our ways with the words you make sure get shared with us. Deliver us from unshouldering our personal responsibilities to you and placing them on the shoulders of others. Grow in us as at least as great a respect for the service of the word as we have in us to minister to others. When we busy ourselves so much that we forget to even speak with you, bring us to our senses and bring us to our knees that we might cry out to you. In the name of the Word who went about doing good, we pray. Amen.