Monday, October 20, 2014

Karma, Slavery, And A Fish Camp -- The AWOL Hero Sermon Recap

Yesterday was both fun and serious, whimsical and reverent.

First of all, the worship program was shaped like a comic book. Then choir led us in worship, we celebrated a bunch of babies, were treated to the second promo video (see Friday's post), and then came this sermon about Onesimus, our second Hidden Hero.

Onesimus must have heard something along the bottom line I shared with the people of the church:  Your value to God doesn't depend on what you deserve.  It depends on what he declares.


One of the most frightening phrases – threats, even – in the common language is “I hope you get what you deserve! (what’s coming to you.)  It’s hardly ever used in the positive, is it?  Like we don’t say to someone, “I hope you get what you deserve this week and YOU get that promotion that I applied for!”  Nope.  We’re not that way.  When our parents – or our enemies – use it with us, it’s NEVER a prelude to “blessings are going to flow for your good behavior.”  It’s more like “when Dad gets home he’s going to give you just what you deserve!” We’ve heard the phrase. We use the phrase.  You know when it is for me?  Oh, Lord, when someone passes me going 52 in a 35 after tailgating me for three blocks, I’m like, “Lord, please give them what they deserve!  A TICKET FROM HEAVEN!”   Road rage karma!

            And I know, I know . . . a lot of you dig back in the recesses of your mind and your behavior and consider what YOU deserve, what’s coming to YOU . . . and it’s not much.  You think back to your past and the abuse you received that has become at some level the abused you give – and you don’t feel you deserve much.  You think of your self-worth and believe it’s tied to your net worth and if it is, it’s not much.  You even think of the time you have wasted on trivial pursuits and so when you consider your ability to make a difference for God, to be a player in his grandly redemptive plan and you figure:  I don’t deserve that.  You wasted too much time, read too little bible, attended church too randomly, thought “if Talbot only knew what I’m really like he wouldn’t be nice to me,” and so you have concluded: other people out there are better suited to do God’s work than I am.  

            Really, what happens is this:  a lot of folks use their past, their failures, as an excuse (Because I did that, because I became that, I can’t take part in this . . . ) to avoid making an impact.  To avoid tapping into the hero hiding inside them.  Inside you.  All because you think that life is about merit, that karma is unshakable, and that you’re going to get what you deserve and having the privilege of serving God isn’t on that list.

            And if anyone ever had reason to dread getting what he deserved, it was Onesimus.  Say that name: REPEAT.  now:  we are in Col 4, a hidden part of a small NT letter, written to a church in a city that no longer exists, and we’re zeroing in on a section win which Paul mentions 8 people by name.  And because the names are obscure and generally hard to pronounce (like Onesimsus!) we usually skip right over this section of the letter.  We keep it hidden!  So in this series that uncovers all these hidden heroes, we saw last week that Tychicus is the guy who actually delivers what God has inspired and what Paul has written.  And that brings us to 4:9: 

 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

Onesimus – faithful and dear brother, who is one of you.  Tuck that away, OK?  

            Tuck them away because those words of Paul are so interesting.  And they are so interesting because of all these hidden heroes, Onesimus actually is the LEAST hidden because he is a lead character in another NT book. Huh?  Yeah!  Philemon!  Double huh?  Most of you didn’t know there was a Philemon which is a shame because it is a one chapter book.  See! You could have read through it in 10 minutes and then boasted to people that you read a whole book in the bible . . . but you didn’t know it was even there.  Anyway, that little book is a letter from Paul to Philemon concerning Onesimus.  Why? O was a runaway slave who had belonged to Philemon.  Yes, in ancient Rome slaves were part of the cultural & economic landscape – not based on race, not for a lifetime, but based more on debt.  It wasn’t pretty, mind you, but Paul evidently at this stage is more interested in growing the church than in challenging the social order (read Exodus for God’s more definitive outlook on slavery).  And Onesimus has likely run away and stolen from Philemon.  While on the run, he somehow connects with Paul, who leads him to faith in Christ, and now he must deal with his past in order to prepare for his future.  

            Look at how Paul describes him in Phil 1:10-11: 

 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[a] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

Was useless.  So:  apparently even before running away, Onesimus was bad at his job.  Like the singer whose mike you turn off.  Like the guy on a permanent performance plan.  Like me with a set of tools.  Useless.  And that was Onesimus.  So he’s got a trifecta going on at this stage of his life:  Poor performer, AWOL, and a thief.  Imagine if Paul had said, “You are gonna get what you deserve, young man.”  The answer to that, legally speaking, was death.

            And yet look what Paul says in Philemon:  “was useless; is useful.”  And then he grows much more intimate by the time of Colossians 4 – faithful, dear brother, one of you.  And I wonder: how do you go from that to THAT?  From outside to inside?  From  failure to brother?  From deserves death to becomes family?  How?  See, I think of how easy it would have been for Onesimus to lurk in the shadows of the church EVEN AFTER HIS CONVERSION, to stay detached, uninvolved, excluded, to be and get what he deserved.  And get this: it would have been so tempting to use his past and use his failure as an excuse.  They won’t accept me. I’m AWOL and a thief.  

            And someone here is the same way.  It’s why you hang on the margins of faith, the edges of church.  I’ve seen you do it!  You use those failures and that past and even a negative experience with a previous church as an excuse to throw a pity party.  And you are the guest of honor!  And the music is up so loud!  And you see folks in LifeGroups, you see people volunteering, you know ppl are living large, unselfish lives and you just focus on . . . you.  Poor, pitiful you.

            But Onesiums doesn’t succumb to that!  He is somehow transformed from useless to useful.  From exile to brother.  From runaway to someone entrusted alongside Tychicus with handling the inspired word.  He doesn’t get what he deserves; somehow, some way, he got better.

            And then I realize:  Your value to God doesn’t depend on what you deserve.  It depends on what he declares.  And in the offstage portion of this glorious story, from the moment Paul led Onesimus to faith in Christ, God declared over the runaway:  “All things new!  Useful to me!  My child.”  Even the name!  Onesimus means, literally, “useful.”  And names are given, not earned; they are declared, not deserved.  Your value to God doesn’t depend on what you deserve.  It depends on what he declares.

            All of you here who are liars, runaways, thieves: REFRAIN.  All you who are abusers or abused:  REFRAIN.  All of you who have decided that because of what you’ve done and where you’ve been, you MIGHT sit in church but no way will you be used by God for significance, REFRAIN.  For those who at best figure you will barely make it into heaven yourself and no way will you take someone else with you, REFRAIN.  For the person who is scared you will drag the rest of the team down with you if you sign up at all, Your value to God doesn’t depend on what you deserve.  It depends on what he declares. 

            See, I get a little riles up about this because Satan tries to steal who you are.  He steals your potential by convincing you that you are not worthy of forgiveness.  He steals your confidence by persuading you that your true worth really does equal your net worth.  He waters down your understanding of your own spiritual gifts to render you inoperative in the body of Christ.  He’s so active at this, so good at this, that he is the life of the pity party you’re throwing. You’re the guest of honor, he’s the DJ, and he’s playing that music louder and louder and LOUDER.

            Because he wants to drown out God’s relentless:  All things new.  Now useful to me.  So don’t let him.  This talk means everything to me.

            Why?  Because we are preparing to massively expand our ability to INVITE ALL PEOPLE (you’ll hear more about it next week) and it only happens as ALL take part.  Not take part as in, “oh, I’m so proud of that church where I go sit on Sundays.”  But take part as in “I am myself commissioned by God to invite someone into a living relationship with Jesus today.”  “I have a hero hiding in my who can do ministry in my LifeGroup.   I have hidden my hero who can be a mentor to a student.  I have a hero inside me who will hold a new nursery baby.”  Where we go from a church of grateful but passive observers to emboldened & confident ministers. REF  What we’re talking about next week only happens with all of us and I don’t want to hear how  your past paralyzes your or how failure fragments you but instead Your value to God doesn’t depend on what you deserve.  It depends on what he declares.

            Even better than “useful” is the Col 4:9 tag:  “One of us.”  Family imagery.  So powerful for a slave to hear.  An outsider to internalize.  I remember in our first week in Monroe in 1990 that the senior citizens of that church had a Friday Fish Dinner. Fish Camp.  Now please: culture shock was engulfing me.  I’m from the city, school in the North, Julie ain’t no Southern Belle, and five days in we’re at a fish camp?!  Pronounced "feesh camp." Please.  But at the end of dinner, when we’re getting up to leave, Mr. Max Helms – whom I’d met earlier in the week in his corn field (!) points a bony finger at me and says, “You’re one of us now.”  I wasn’t. But I was.  Not earned.  Declared.   My gosh, the blood of Jesus demolishes the corrosive effects of the past.  And more important, in destroys the distinctions between “in” and “out” and “us” and “them.”   You might be experiencin culture shock simply by sitting in a church today, but if so, don’t hide behind your failures when Christ points at you and says, “you’re one of us now.”

            Listen: you’ve got a hero hiding in you.  You’ve just allowed your past or your failure as an excuse to keep it under wraps.  Until today, you’ve preferred inaction to ministry but I want you to know God has declared you “new, useful” and is simply waiting for you to accept his declaration and step into the adventure.  And that’s why our lobby today will have folks you can start that process with our Room In The Inn team who ministers to our neighbors who are homeless.  Your value to God doesn’t depend on what you deserve.  It depends on what he declares.

            Because you might be interested to know what happened to Onesimus.  He never did get what he deserved.  He heard the sound of God’s declaration, by the time of Colossians he was entrusted with the oracles of God, and church history tells us that a few years later he became the bishop – the lead pastor – of the church in Ephesus!  Multiple sources tell us that!  From useless to bishop! From crook to preacher!  From AWOL to apostle. From runaway to leading people home.  It’s the kind of upward mobility that is only powered by grace.  Onesimus didn’t get what he deserved.  He got better.  

            May we say the same about all the hidden heroes here today.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hidden Heroes, Week 2 -- The AWOL Hero

Hidden Heroes is such a good series that it has not one but two sermon bumper videos!

Here's the first, revealed last week.

And here's the second, revealed right now.

I wonder which one we will play on Sunday?

The best way to find out?


8:30.  10.  11:30.

The AWOL Hero from Colossians 4:9.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

When NOT To Go Into Ministry

As I round the bend of life into my 50s, and as I see some of the highest of the high profile preachers step away from active ministry, I've been thinking:

Why should an individual enter vocational ministry in the first place?

In processing that question, I've come up with several wrong answers and one that I believe to be most on the mark.

Several wrong reasons

1.  For personal validation.   If you, like me, are on a relentless quest for the approval of parents, friends, colleagues, and most especially parishioners, then please don't go into ministry.  Christ nailed your approval into the cross, and if that's not enough, you're not ready for the parish.

2.  For emotional healing.  If you believe that by surrounding yourself with church people and ministry activity, you will heal wounds from your past, then please don't enter ministry.  The parish is not a laboratory that cooks up the perfect concoction for your healing; in fact, many local churches do a pretty good job of tearing down whatever emotional health you had built up.

3.  To make a name for yourself.  I can honestly say that in 1986 when I most clearly "heard the call" the thought of making a name in ministry never occurred to me.  There was no mega-church movement, no multi-site phenomenon, and relatively few celebrity pastors.  My, how that landscape has changed, and notoriety has supplanted proclamation.  If you want to "become known," please don't go into the ministry because you'll likely get known for all the wrong reasons.

4.  To build a platform.  This is the first cousin of #3, above.  If you want to build a platform so that your parish ministry can propel you into other, higher profile ministry -- politics?  publishing? speaker's bureaus? -- then please don't go into ministry.  Local churches are starving for people who are entering ministry to love and lead people in the parish.

What I keep coming back to . . . 

I believe the healthiest reason to enter ministry is to help others have done to them what was done to you.  

See, the Gospel was done to me.  When I am awake to the Holy Spirit, the Gospel continues to be done to me.  It is the daily awareness of and celebration of the fact that I am, at the same time,

such a wreck that I can't save myself and
such a treasure that God saved me.

That needs to be the primal instinct of a pastor's soul.  I do best in ministry and in life when those are the first thoughts on my mind in the morning and the last at night.  I am "being saved" as I Corinthians 1:18 says and that joyful awareness is to be the foundation of a call to ministry.

A wrecked treasure.  Or a treasured wreck.  Take your choice.  But celebrate the truth, and enter into ministry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Now THAT Was A Fun Wedding

Here I am with newlyweds Hal Watson and Nancy Donosky Watson.

They are from Dallas, TX and yet had a Charlotte, NC wedding.  On a Tuesday.  Huh?

Here's the backstory.  Hal is the stepson of my oldest brother Harvey.  Thirty years ago, when Hal was 19, Harvey married Gayle Hudgens and of course became a vital part of Hal's life.  So, technically, I am Hal Watson's Step-Uncle.  And Hal and I went to the same high school in Dallas, though I was a senior when he was but a lowly freshman.

And so was Nancy Donosky.  She and I attended both middle and high school together, were the kind of folks who definitely said "hi" in the hallways (a gift I would never have given to Hal if he was a scrawny ninth grader when I was a senior), but after graduation we went to different parts of the country for college and adulthood.  Nancy was one of the best-known people in our class -- always at the center of activity, conversation, and laughter.

Fast forward 34 years.  Hal and Nancy connected in Dallas as adults, fell in love, and got engaged.  Yet at this stage of their lives, rather than the time and expense of a big wedding, they wanted to elope and make their marriage a surprise to children, friends, and parents alike.

Which is easy to do when you have a preacher in the family.

So yesterday we located another member of Highland Park High School class of 1980, added him to Good Shepherd staffer Shirley Berryhill, together they served as witnesses for one of the most enjoyable wedding ceremonies at which I have presided.

Then we had lunch together and passed the time catching up on "prayer concerns" (AKA juicy gossip) from many of our classmates.

And, after wedding cake & wedding toasts, we gave Nancy some lessons on the proper pronunciation of "Uncle Talbot."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Five Tuesday -- Top Five Nostalgic Songs

There is something about music that connects you deeply with time and place, isn't there?

You hear a certain song and IMMEDIATELY your mind takes you back to where you were and who you were with when you a) heard that song for the first time or b) heard it so often in that place or with those people that you have an indelible connection to it.

That's the way it is with me.  Today figures to have plenty of nostalgia in for me (check later to see why), so here are my top five songs that take me back:

5.  The Moody Blues, Ride My See Saw.  It's actually a pretty ridiculous song (what's the deal with the poem at the beginning?), but whenever I hear it, I'm six years old again, lying on the bed in the downstairs guest bedroom in our house on Rosedale Ave. in Dallas, surrounded by brothers and sisters who actually bought the record album for us to listen to.

4.  Paul Simon, KodachromeI'm 11, it's the summer of 1973, the Senator Sam Ervin is presiding at the Watergate hearings, and I'm in the car with my dad driving from Dallas to Knoxville, Tennessee for the National Boys' 12-and-under tennis tournament.  (Please don't ask how I did.)  I loved everything about this song -- especially that it said "crap" on the radio.  My dad noted my enthusiasm and a few months later bought me the record album for my birthday.

3.  Led Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Love.  I'm 15, playing a tennis tournament in St. Louis (you can ask me how I did in that one -- made it to the finals before losing to eventual Top 30 pro Ramesh Krishnan), staying with a friend in a hotel near the courts, and listening to this tape on a new cassette player my mom had bought me for good luck before the tournament.  It worked.

2.  Don Henley, The Boys Of Summer. I'm 22, driving on I-95 just outside of Trenton, New Jersey, commuting to my first job out of college, and I hear this song for the first time on WYSP FM.  The radio reception wasn't great, but I instantly knew the song was.  And is.

1.  The Bravery, Believe.  It's 2007 so I am 46 and attending the Innovate Conference at Granger Church, having my mind blown at what is actually possible in church life and worship.  My crush on Granger has subsided some these days, but like the Bravery there really is something to believe.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sermon Recap: The "What Can Brown Do For You?" Hero

It's hard to preach poorly after the band does a cover of Paramore's acoustic cover of the Foo Fighter's "My Hero."

Not that I didn't almost pull it off, mind you.  But the morning set up was such that I got the ball deep in enemy territory.

And what followed was a sermon that was slightly better on paper than in person.  I believe I had prepared a lot of good material, but couldn't always remember where it was supposed to go.  That's the risk of preaching without notes . . . of all the people in the room, only the folks in the sound booth know what I am supposed to be saying as opposed to what I am actually saying.

Nevertheless, I introduce you below to Tychicus, our first Hidden Hero, who shows us the bottom line:


At the conclusion of the message we literally had people in the lobby wearing superhero capes so that congregants could get plugged in to various ministry areas.


I love these two companies:  Fed Ex - When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight and UPS What Can Brown Do For You?  What do these two companies do?  They deliver.  An entire crew of handlers, warehousers, pilot, truck drivers, all laboring in obscurity, are tasked with delivering packages and goodies from point A to point B.  Master deliverers.  Because think about it.  What good is it you go to the store to buy a gift for mom who lives in, say, Texas, you wrap it up, package it, and send it, but it never gets delivered?! And mom never knows just how thoughtful you are?!  No good! Or what good is an order you place from Amazon if you check your front porch every day and the darn thing never gets delivered?! Or guys, what good is it if you order flowers to make up for A) causing that fight or B) forgetting her b-day or C) you don’t know what you did but you just know she’s mad . . . if the flowers never get delivered?!  And don’t you hate those email bounce back w/ message: Delivery Status Delayed. Because the best note, package, gift is useless if it is not delivered well from the Giver to the Receiver.
            And as we start this series of conversations on Hidden Heroes, we are going to be looking at a really interesting story / character who has to do with delivery.  Here’s the deal:  Paul, that travelling pastor and missionary who wrote so much of the NT, that celebrity of the early church and event today’s church,  is likely under house arrest in Rome.  But as part of the arrest he is still allowed to hear about and communicate with the churches under his charge.  And one of those is the church in the city of Colossae, located in what is today Turkey.  And the four short chapters of the book are loaded with some of the most glorious, Christ-honoring teaching and thinking anywhere, ever.  Here’s just a sampling of Paul’s words here, sections that give me goose bumps:

 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (2:9)

 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[c] alive with Christ. (2:13)

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (3:11)

That 3:11 in particular has just become a mantra of sorts for me, as I don’t believe it can be improved on.  That’s why Paul is so known, such a celebrity; he’s brilliant!
            And yet Paul concludes the letter in 4:7-18 with a long list of people whom he describes briefly and to whom he wants to convey his greetings.  You could say that at the conclusion of what many consider to be his most epic letter, he hides a list of eight heroes.  They are eight hidden heroes, hidden not only in this letter – the part of a biblical letter that, admit it, you skim right over! – but hidden within Scripture as a whole.  And these heroes are so hidden we’re going to spend the next six weeks seeking them.
            And the first is Tychicus.  Look at what Paul says about him in 4:7: 

 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant[a] in the Lord.

You know what that means?  He’s not in Colossae as Paul writes the letter; he’s not a recipient of it. Those are coming later.  He is also NOT staying with Paul after the letter goes out.  One of the future heroes, Epaphras who ‘sends greetings,’ does that.  (That’s what you do when you’re not coming, as in “tell then I said ‘hey!’”)  So: he’s not with Paul, yet he knows Paul and he is going to convey info about Paul to the Colossians, so you know what that means?  He’s GOING TO DELIVER THE LETTER THAT PAUL WROTE!  He’s the courier!  They didn’t have post offices, no Wells Fargo stage coaches, and they darn sure didn’t have when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.  So Ty, accompanied by Onesimus, took Paul’s parchment, tucked it in his satchel or hid it in his belt or enclosed it in a cellophane protector, protected it from robbers, and walked the long, difficult distance from Rome to Colossae (map). 
            It was a dangerous, exhausting journey.  And if he doesn’t deliver it, no one gets it.  If he is careless, casual, bad with directions!, the effort Paul has put into writing his masterpiece is for naught.  If he leaves it at the motel along with his umbrella and his reading glasses, I never get to have my own life shaped by the majesty of 3:11!  And here’s what I can’t get my mind to let go of:  he is delivering the Word Of God.  I doubt he knew it, but that’s what he did!  God inspired it, Paul wrote it, and Ty delivered it and it took all of them to make it happen.  You take one link out of that chain and the inspired word gets lost.
            And yet here’s what I love:  God – you’ve heard of him.  Paul – most of you had heard of him before this a.m.  Tychicus?  99% of you had never heard of him before today and those of you who had are professional preachers, missionaries, or just weird.  Yet he is as vital and necessary as the other two.  He’s the FTD (AV) to your flowers, guys; he’s the UPS to your important order from, ladies, he’s the email server to your Direct Deposit everyone! (Hallelujah?!)  You’ve never heard of him, you don’t see him, he’s not the celebrity, but without his delivery there is no ministry.  He’s little known, but God chooses him to make known the One who must be known.
            And look, look, look at how Paul describes him in the last part of 4:7:  fellow servant.  Not scribe, not errand boy, not anonymous delivery guy, but ON A PAR WITH PAUL.  We are equals, Paul is saying.  God’s the divinity, I am the celebrity, Ty labors in obscurity, but we are equals.  God inspired it, I wrote it, he delivers it, and it’s all essential.  My light shines, his heroism is hidden but in the kingdom we are equals.  Great stuff.   The DELIVERER of the good news is as essential as the writer.  And so do you know what it means for us and for impacting the kingdom and even for all you invited people becoming inviters?  This:  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.  The greatest impact usually happens when no one notices!  Tychicus arrives in Colossae after this difficult journey, hands the parchment to the church leaders there, and VOILA! the word of God gets propelled to new places in new ways.  The celebrity gets the credit – Paul’s letter to the Colossians – but the one working in obscurity is the linchpin of the whole deal.  The teamwork of Paul & Ty divides the work yet multiplies the impact.  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.
            You know what it is a little like?  Philip Pillsbury.  Huh?  Yeah, a son and heir in those Pillsburies – the one with the doughboy, the ones who make all the baked goodies.  Well, do you know what Philip’s most distinguishing physical characteristic is? He is missing the tips of three of his fingers.  Why?  That’s what happens to grain millers.  He, who could be an heir celebrity, never leaving the corner office, has been working on the floor with the guys, milling the flour.  Don’t you know he has their respect?  Don’t you know in that obscurity he communicated volumes?! God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.
            Or it’s even like two funerals that happened here over the last several months.  At the one, the person who had died loved Chick Fil A.  Loved it.  At the other, the person who had died had this odd attraction for celery.  I don’t know why, but she did.  She liked celery like the other one liked Chick Fil A.  Why do I tell you that?  Because at both funerals, we hosted small receptions & greetings out in the lobby and at the first one the greeting/hospitality team made up of GS volunteers served Chick Fil A nuggets to everyone and at the second, sliced celery.  Now: no one really noticed the workers, they thanked Chris for his singing and me for my preaching, everyone saw us (minor celebrities!) but the real ministry was in the food delivery.  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.
            I love the skill set Tychicus must have with Paul.  Ty, did you go to seminary?  Nope.  College?  1 year of CP.  Can you preach?  Not really.  Lead a LifeGroup?  Not yet.  Run the youth group?  Doubt it.  Well . . . can you WALK?  Yep.  Follow directions?  Sure.  Good!  You’re hired!  That’s it!  He could walk, he could probably read what passed back then for maps, he was persistent.  Paul was the genius, Ty was the grunt and put them together and you have the Word Of God coming to life.  He wallowed then & wallows now in obscurity but in that obscurity is the authentic ministry.
            You know why I’m saying this?  Because we have a lot of Tychicuses here who DO NOT REALIZE the extent to which your seemingly insignificant efforts for Christ and his church are in fact of supreme importance.  Or, more to the point, we have Tychicuses here who because you figure you can’t do any notable you don’t do anything at all . . . and you’re not tapping into the hero hidden inside of you!  You’re like I can’t sing, I can’t preach, I’m not leadership material, I’m not nothing and God says no, no, no!  There’s a hero hidden in there.  There’s a part of the indestructible ministry chain inside you and though you’re not public your role is still perfect.  You are still the delivery man or delivery woman for my word.
            See, those of you who have roles – or are thinking or roles – off-stage, in the wings, out of the limelight . . . well, your apparently insignificant ministry is loaded with meaning and purpose, it is pulsing with power.  It is no less vital than the songs we sing or the sermons we preach.  The Tychicus in you completes this incredible thing God starts.  With the gospel, there is no such thing as “I’m just the messenger.”  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.
            You know how I know this is true?  You had a Tychicus who reached you!  For some of you, it was that anonymous person who handed you a nametag or a bulletin.  For others, it was the second grade Sunday School teacher whose name you can’t remember today but you sure knew she loved Jesus.  And for still others it was that crew of people who came by your house and built the wheelchair ramp for your grandmother.  The names are gone now but the influence lives on.  I loved hearing from the lady who joined our church recently and she told me, “Dennis is why I joined.  My friend was dying and he visited her with such grace and care and spirit and so I was like, ‘I want to be part of whatever church he represents.’” Not my sermons! Our servant.  You have that ability, that gifting in you.  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.
            Because you can “do” what has been “done” for you.  That’s why the person who prayed over your seat this morning before you got here?  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.  The one who handed you your program?  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity. .  The one in the nursery to whom you handed your child? God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.  .  The guy sitting right now with a 4th grade in a circle where Jesus is the topic of conversation?  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.   The young single woman who tonight will gather with 6th grade girls?  God’s word is better delivered in obscurity than by celebrity.   Not a celebrity among them.  Laboring in obscurity all of them. Delivering the Word Of God – spoken and not – all of them.  How about you find the hidden hero within and join in?