Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)
TITLE: Which Side Are You On?
By Shawn Smith
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He had been working his way through the Gospel of John and finally decided to just continue on through chapter 13 preparing for the betrayal of one of the disciples, a story that had been told time and time again and which seemed to offer nothing new. As he stood that Sunday morning on the side of the pulpit that is expected to contain knowledge and inspiration, looking out over his classroom of faithful students, he suddenly felt completely inadequate to teach. He had taught nothing new in so many years, and it occurred to him, he had learned nothing new either.
He paused for some time and then took a deep breath. He was preparing himself to share his thoughts about his inability to continue on as shepherd over the church when he saw the next verse.
“Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” John 13:23 (KJV)
No one is certain exactly when the gospel of John was written, perhaps as many as 90 years after the death of Christ, and Tom realized something he had never noticed before; in all those years of teaching others, John had never lost site of the intimate love Jesus held specifically him. In fact, John remembered that love so clearly that he referred to himself time and time again as the one “whom Jesus loved”. The image of John leaning back against the breast of Jesus became so vivid and Tom began to understand that his focus on teaching others had caused him to lose sight of his relationship with Christ. He had lost sight of the fact that he was one whom Jesus loved.
Tom set his notes aside and finished his sermon by simply sharing from his heart what the Spirit had just taught him.
As he closed in prayer, he caught glimpse of several of his regular attendees brushing tears from their cheeks. His eyes scanned the room of bowed heads and landed on a middle-aged man who had kept a keen gaze at the front of the sanctuary. Tom realized he had never seen this man before and as a drop of water fell from the man’s eye, Tom decided to add something new to the service.
“Lord, it’s been many years since I’ve done an alter call. Forgive me for not remembering to share your love with those who need it most, those who don’t know how deeply you love them.” He asked for those who wanted to know that love to come forward. Without pause, the man fled his pew and nearly ran to the front of the sanctuary, followed by several members of the congregation who Tom had known for many years.
Tom continued to pray, inviting forward those who wanted to renew their relationship with Christ and be refreshed by His love. Within moments, every soul in the room had crowded in at the foot of the pulpit, embracing one another, sharing Christ’s love. Tom suddenly felt very alone on the teaching side of the pulpit. As he stepped down to join the others, he realized that no matter which side of the pulpit he was on, he was still a student; a student of the love of Jesus Christ.
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