Spoken sermons are one thing. God at work through you, a stage, some lights, just the right music and you can get swept up in it all. It is a beautiful thing to stand in that space and herald the word of God to the people of God. When it’s all said and done, you have this built in measurement; you know how effective your ministry was, because people respond. They teach you in seminary that this is not how you measure—but, too often, we do. Even the humblest of preachers walk away knowing that God has allowed you to connect by the power of the Spirit to the folks who have gathered in God’s name to hear God’s word.
It’s not like that in the strip club, in the dark corners of the smoke filled bar where sex and lust and greed and poverty of spirit confront you at every angle. You do your best, you serve the meal, talk with the dancers and the staff and work hard not to stare while they earn their keep. You hope-- no you pray that they don’t render you useless because you have several degrees hanging on your wall and are therefore not able to relate to their reality. You talk with them about their day, their new apartment, their new perfume, what it’s like to walk in 10 inch heels, and you hope. You hope that just by showing up week after week, offering love instead of the judgment they have come to expect from people like you, that they will begin to see and experience the relentless love of this Jesus in whose name you have come.
You don’t leave the lived sermon feeling lauded or in any way qualified to do what you are attempting. You don’t leave being praised for your preparation or acumen. They hug you and say “thank you” and go back to practicing their trade as if your warm food and friendly embrace has made no impact on their lives.
You come home and wash the stench of the strip club off of you in a hot shower and you ask yourself, “What am I doing? Is this a waste of my time?” And then you sit quietly collecting your thoughts in front of the Christmas tree while cyber shopping at Overstock.com and the utter ridiculousness of your dream confronts you, the uncertainty of the outcome, the lack of strategy, the sheer impossibility of it all.
But then you remember this other ridiculously, impossible story, of a baby born to a virgin who was the hand made of God. This ridiculous love of God that sent this baby into the world, weak and fragile, to grow and live among humankind hoping some would hear his words, believe in him and follow his teachings knowing still others would reject, mock, shame and betray him. What an insane risk! What a feeble plan! And yet, love came down. And you remember that the ages proclaim-- of every force known in the universe there is nothing more powerful than love.Love is stronger than the grave; the flames can not burn it out and the waters can not drown it out (Song. of Sol. 8.6). And you remember that this love IS the entire plan, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1.37), and you are bound up in it.
So you decide you will go back again, and you will love because love, divine love is what has sent you and is the power that changes the world.