Summary: God is working to get our attention. Sometimes He uses alarm bells when we must respond immediately. Sometimes He uses alarm clocks to focus us on our daily disciplines. What is best, however, is the inner body clock, the inner drive to be a Kingdom pe
The greatest challenge any speaker has is to gain and to
hold the attention of his audience. Speech teachers tell us
that if we are going to practice anything, practice both the
opening and the ending of a speech. That may be all that
anyone remembers. So how does a speaker gain and hold
the attention of his audience? Talking VERY LOUD? That
works for a while, but soon it wears out the speaker and
assaults the audience. Regale the audience with bursts of
poetic oratory? Whoop, like the country preacher? Maybe
speak in a rap idiom? Nice if you can do it, but some of us
are ethnically challenged on those items.
One way to get an audience’s attention is to do something a
little outrageous, something a little offbeat. I told you last
week the story of the film, Dead Poets Society, where the
teacher climbed on a desk and revved up his students by
repeating, “Carpe diem” “Seize the day”. At the end of the
service Michael Stuckey told me I really had him scared into
thinking I was going to climb up on the Communion Table!
Well, that would have been a little too strong, even for my
tastes, but you would have remembered it! Just as you
remember those occasions when I have come out here in
bathrobes vaguely resembling some Biblical character.
(Although not even I have had the courage to do what I am
told Pastor Gillespie did years ago, come out dressed as
Costumes and outrageous actions are one way to get
attention. Another is to use props, something visible. I am
told that my sermon, “Been There, Done That, Got the T-
Shirt”, in which I peeled off and revealed the slogans on five
or six different shirts, was all the rage in a federal
penitentiary! Hard to believe, because they couldn’t see the
shirts, but the idea seems to have grabbed hold. Maybe you
remember the time I preached on “The Strength of the
Triangle”, trying to illustrate how you and I can love each
other if we have God’s love with us, and I arranged three
two-by-fours to make my point. (There are, incidentally,
other ways to use two-by-fours to get people’s attention,
most of them involving something about ‘up side your head’).
Again maybe you remember the Easter when Camila Morris
made a huge papier-mache blob to represent the stone that
was rolled from the Lord’s tomb. I dramatically ended the
sermon with a push, and the thing rolled right off the platform
and down the steps, kaplunk! Well, if the point was to get
your attention, at least that it worked!
Well, what does God do to get our attention? God speaks to
us, all the time, but it’s easy to go to sleep. We ignore God.
Yet He keeps on working to get our attention. The Bible
says that He spoke to us in the law and through the
prophets, but in these latter days He has spoken to us by a
Son. That’s an attention-getter. Like the old hymn says,
“What more can He say than to you He has said, to you who
for refuge to Jesus have fled?” God has spoken, but we are
not always listening. God is working to get our attention.
The seer of Revelation introduces us to God’s use of alarm
bells to wake us up. He identified these alarm bells in the
letter to the church at Sardis.
First, there are times when God has to use something very
dramatic to get our attention. I call it a fire alarm.
Sometimes it takes a real disaster before we wake up and
realize that, like it or not, we have to act. When the fire
alarm sounds, nobody ignores it.
The Lord says to the church at Sardis,
I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are
dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of
Wake up, strengthen what remains and is on the point of
death. Sometimes the Lord has to do something dramatic to
wake us up to the fact that we are near death.
There is a phone next to my bed, so that if it rings during the
night, I can grab it quickly. It was placed there when we had
young adult children. When it rang at some ungodly hour it
was something like, “Dad, I’ve got a flat tire; can you help
me?” Or, “Dad, I got sleepy while I was driving home, and I
think I scraped this jersey barrier on the Beltway”. That
jangling phone bell was like a fire alarm; when it rang, it was
not good news. And even today, though we are well past all