Summary: A banner was posted with a misprint: owesome instead of awesome. But it is nonetheless true: we owe some love to one another, we owe some urgency to ourselves, and we owe some loyalty to Christ.

As some of our youth discovered last week, it is not as easy

as it looks to preside over a worship service. It is not as

easy as it looks, because you have to read signals. You

start to do something, and someone in the back waves at

you. Meanwhile, someone else on the front pew is mouthing

hints, and the printed bulletin says something else. That’s

called “mixed signals”. You get mixed signals because there

are several people out there with agendas they want

honored: one wants to deliver Father’s Day carnations to the

men, another wants to gather the scholarship offering, and

still another is concerned about someone who did not speak

his piece. So pity the poor presider, who must make sense

of all these mixed signals!

But mixed signals in the conduct of a worship service is one

thing; mixed signals in being the church is quite another.

Being unsure what comes next during the hour of gathering

is one issue; being unsure of what it means to be the church

of the Lord Jesus Christ is a much larger issue. This

morning I want to think with you about mixed signals –

whether we have been watching the Lord, or whether we

have instead been pursuing our own agendas. Mixed


Now mixed signals can be the result of hearing the directions

wrong. Sometimes it’s not what we actually hear, but what

we think we hear, and so that sends us off in the wrong

direction. They tell the story about the little boy who was in a

wedding, and as he came down the aisle, he would take two

steps, stop, cup his hands as if they were claws, and roar!

All the way down the aisle: two steps, claws, roar; two steps,

claws, roar. When he got to the front, the best man asked

what in the world he was doing. His answer made perfect

sense; he said, “I am supposed to be the Ring Bear.” Hey,

there’s not much difference between “bear” and “bearer”, is

there? Enough for a mixed signal!

Or consider the four-year-old who prayed the Lord’s Prayer:

“Forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put

trash in our baskets.” That’s not bad, is it? Or the other

child, in this computer-literate age, who can be forgiven the

way she heard the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into

temptation, but deliver us some E-mail.”

Now, just a moment. This is church. You need to stop all

this laughter. You need to be quiet. Do you know what will

happen to you if you don’t quiet down? One little girl told her

younger brother, who was much too noisy in church, about

the men standing at the back. “See those men? They’re


Mixed signals. Sometimes they are the result of our just not

hearing, clearly. We hear what we think we hear. More

likely, we hear what we want to hear. Sometimes, on the

other hand, mixed signals result from bringing two things

together that make it feel as though something unloving is

intended. Sometimes we send mixed signals as a church

because we don’t see that what we do feels like a putdown.

Like the church bulletin that announced, “Weight Watchers

group meets after worship; please exit through the double

doors.” Or the pastor who intoned, “There will be a meeting

of the low self-esteem support group down in the basement

at the rear of the sanctuary.” Or my personal favorite, since

it actually happened here, several years ago, when the

Christmas bulletin said, “Today the children of the church will

offer a Christmas pageant; everyone is cautiously invited to


Great day, if enough of that happens, you just want to close

the service and send everybody home. Brother Hart, maybe

we should stop right now and sing a closing song – probably

that one about the visually challenged forest animal? You

know it, don’t you? “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear”!

Mixed signals. Some of them result from not hearing the

Word of the Lord. And some of them come about because

we get crossways of one another and end up hurting one


Two weeks ago, our Anniversary committee selected as the

theme, “Our God Is An Awesome God”. A wonderful theme.

Except that up here on the organ chamber they posted a

banner, which reads, big as life, “Our God Is An Owesome

God.” Owesome instead of awesome! My first reaction was

to scream and worry about what could be done, at the last

moment. The answer, of course, was that nothing could be

done. There was no time to make a substitute. I decided to

make some light comment about it and let it go. But Edgar

Sheppard, Jr. said, “I think you have a sermon there. Preach

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