April 13, 2022

Being the Sermons and the Pictures

Seeing sermons and showing care go so much further than a display of academic prowess or skill with the written word.

Wilona Karimabadi

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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.