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I received a stern letter about our ministry the other day. In it an angry-sounding woman told us she refused to renew her subscription to Adventist Review. “The Review is chockfull of sermons, unfortunately!” she said. “I would rather see the sermon than hear one any day. We don’t care how much you know until we know how much you care.”
She isn’t wrong.
To clarify, we don’t publish 72 pages of sermons or even more than the occasional three-page summary. Truthfully, we wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But our unhappy reader was spot-on concerning her other points. Seeing sermons and showing care go so much further than a display of academic prowess or skill with the written word.
When my son was in first grade, he did something (I can’t remember what) that got my husband and me justifiably upset. And so we spoke to him in a tone that conveyed that sentiment. He turned to us and said, “You’re not being the picture of Jesus. You’re being the picture of Satan!”
What is being the picture of Jesus supposed to look like? How do we reflect Christ in the way we act? in the way we treat others? If a mirror were held up to our behavior, who would be looking back at us?
At the time of this writing, most of us have been glued to the news and, in my case, even TikTok, for on the ground coverage of all that is happening in Ukraine, and I’m heart-broken at the fear, displacement, and violence facing innocent citizens.
But the news has made me think seriously. Especially in times like these, being the sermon and being the picture of Jesus are what is called for, not just through words, or thoughts, or prayers alone—important as they are.
A friend of mine took to cold calling a local Ukrainian church in the area and told whoever answered the phone how much she was praying for their country. I sent an email to the lead minister of a similar congregation just to extend my support. Refugees are crossing the borders into Poland, Hungary, and Romania to people waiting on the other side with food, blankets, and a welcome. And yes, brave Russian citizens are protesting, at great risk to themselves.
Even Saturday Night Live preached a simple sermon with its “cold open” during the February 26 show. On a stage decorated with sunflowers—the national flower of Ukraine— the show featured the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York singing the hymn “Prayer for Ukraine.” The piece traditionally closes each service in most Ukrainian Christian churches.
It’s easy to talk the talk. To research the topics, finding all the biblical support, anecdotal evidence, and Spirit of Prophecy quotations to load a sermon—or an article—with powerful words. But what speaks the loudest?
We are facing challenges on a world-wide scale where we can see the opportunity to be the picture of Jesus, to be the most powerful of sermons. As we get closer to Jesus’ coming, watch where the sermons are coming from—in deed more than word. And join in.