Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Favorite Part of Today's Sermon

There is a popular sermon illustration that went around by email a while back that goes like this:

There was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Savior appeared. The Lord told the man there was work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after day.

For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

After awhile the man became very discouraged at his lack of progress. He became disheartened and he asked himself, “Why kill myself over this?" he thought. "I'll just put in my time, giving just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough."

And that he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of Prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. "Lord" he said, "I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half an inch. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"

To this the Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so?

Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven't moved the rock. BUT YOUR CALLING WAS TO BE OBEDIENT, TO PUSH AND TO EXERCISE YOUR FAITH AND TRUST IN MY WISDOM.

This you have done. I, my friend, will now move the rock."


If you are standing in an awesome place with the Lord right now and in your life, even if you are in Ordinary Time, you can probably hear this message. But if you are in a personal Lent, this message may plummet from helpful to downright cruel.

We have all spent time pushing against that rock – some are in the midst of it right now. Truth is as pithy and clever as that story is, most of us don’t want to be strong and muscled with our backs brown. “Guess what Lord, we are happy with pale and flabby and we just want to stop hurting. We do not want to be obedient. We do not want to exercise our faith and trust in God’s wisdom. So Lord, if you can move the rock, then by all means save us all some trouble and please do so.”


Songbird said...

Well, amen.

Anonymous said...

That's a difficult one. Hard to know which is the right rock to push sometimes, isn't it?


Kathrynzj said...

Good point. Ultimately my point in the sermon was that God's gift to us is the community of faith and so in the illustration, the man really should have asked for others to help him push the rock.