Impress Me!

Rev. David Kind

I Corinthians 2:1-5

Grace, Mercy and Peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

For several years now folks from my church have gotten together on the 4th of July to have a cook out and watch the fireworks in Minneapolis. We always have a pretty good time together. But this year the fireworks were, well, just not that impressive. The display lasted about 15 minutes total. And the grand finale, and it is a stretch to say it was grand at all, lasted all of about 30 seconds. And there really wasn’t anything special about the fireworks that were shot off. And most disappointing to me, there were hardly any of those ones that make the big boom that you can feel in your chest. So I said to my wife afterward: “That was pretty lame. Next year we need to go somewhere else.” I want to be impressed, after all.

We all like to be impressed. And that’s the way people think about church a lot of times. Sometimes the church service doesn’t seem all that impressive. We go and sing the same old hymns, chant the ancient liturgy, and listen to the same preacher. And though your pastor is pretty well educated, he may not be the most impressive person around. Perhaps he’s a little nerdy, or over weight, or balding. Maybe his sermons aren’t the most riveting things you’ve ever heard. Perhaps his preaching style is a little dry. And then you hear that there is this great preacher at your friend’s church that really speaks to people like you, and that their worship services are dynamic and exciting and designed to impress you. And every Sunday there are like thousands of people there. And once in a while they may even give away a big screen TV. And you think about going, because you want to be impressed for a change.

Or maybe what’s really impressive is not another preacher, but someone speaking at the local mosque, or a professor wowing people with scientific or philosophical wisdom in the lecture hall at the University, or an atheist poet at the local coffee house. So why waste your time and attention on something that doesn’t seem all that impressive. Why continue to listen to your pastor and go to your church?

Tradition tells us that St. Paul was not a very impressive preacher, that he had a kind of irritating high-pitched voice, and that he was long winded. Now I know that I’m not the most interesting of preachers, but I can say that I never put anyone into such a deep sleep that they fell out of a window and died during any of my sermons. But St. Paul did. And yet we know that he was one of the greatest apostles and saints that the Church has known and that the spread of Christianity into the Roman empire was due in large part to his preaching.

But what does St. Paul say about all of this himself? He says: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom... And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom...” Paul admits it! He wasn’t that impressive. But what else does Paul say? He came not with human strength, but with the power of God, not with words of human wisdom neatly fitted together into an impressive message, but with the Holy Spirit, not with lofty speech, but preaching Christ crucified.

And why? Because your faith must not be in men, must not be in human wisdom or philosophy, must not be in what impresses for the moment, but in the power of God, that is, in Jesus Christ and in Him crucified. All other impressive things fall apart in the end. And so Paul contrasts the plausible speech of men to the mysteries of God, which are above human explanation. He contrasts the wisdom of human beings, even the most intelligent of them, with the power of God which is active in the simple Word of Christ that is preached. He contrasts the lofty well crafted rhetoric of the unbeliever with the seeming foolishness of Christ.

But what is truly impressive? An exciting, well rehearsed, preacher? A passionate imam? An erudite and articulate college professor? Or Christ Himself, the Son of God come down from heaven to be crucified for you? In Him is the power of faith and life. In His death and resurrection is forgiveness and salvation. He alone is truly impressive. And because of Christ, your pastor, however funny he looks, whatever foibles he might have, however boring his speech, is impressive too. For he speaks and acts for Christ. His Word, by the power of Christ, forgives. And the supper he serves you from Christ’s table gives eternal life. So don’t look too closely at the messenger who faithfully preaches Christ and His Word. Don’t let his lack of impressiveness fool you. For the Word that is faithfully preached is the power and glory of God, and Christ is heard and given in it. And that is truly impressive. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, to life everlasting.

Created: September 9th, 2014