A friend of mine told me that after the Thailand tsunami, a natural disaster that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, the preacher at her church failed to mention it during the worship gathering following the day of the event. She was devastated, and rightly so. He didn’t sense the switch.
Not too long ago, I prepared this wicked awesome sermon. Best of my preaching life. I can say that because no one heard it. The week before I would have preached it, a student at the local high school committed suicide in a very public way. There was absolutely no way to address the grief felt in the community and preach the sermon I had ready. There was no way to use the tragedy as an illustration (Eww!)
So I switched.
Knowing when to switch things up is crucial in life and ministry.
Sometimes you can’t go with “the plan.” There’s always a balance between what is supposed to happen and what needs to happen.
Jesus was just about to step into a nice theological discussion one day with a crowd that had gathered to learn from him. They had been patient, searching the horizon for signs of a boat. Seeing it, they counted down until his arrival. Their needs were more of the same as everyday’s: hunger, healing, seeking instruction and blessing. All of these are important, but there was something more important that day: a little girl who was the daughter of a leader in the local synagogue, was dying.
A man named Jairus came to Jesus and asked him to come with him to save his little girl. Now I can imagine that Jesus was prepared to preach a career defining sermon. He’d been out on the water on a boat. Having just freed a man from a demon, he must have had some awesome illustration taking shape in his head. With his mind cleared from the trip, I bet he was about to preach so well, he was going to take notes on himself.
And this man interrupted his flow. Like a tidal wave, a sense of the urgent, an invitation to the important, washed over him. He followed Jairus to his home, get this: disappointing the crowd. Rewind. Read that again. They had been waiting, they had bought tickets. They were wearing the tour shirts. But Jesus, sensing the switch, made a new plan, a plan that would save a life and proclaim God’s greatness in a new way.
Maybe Jesus had been praying for something like this. Maybe he just knew it was going to happen, but either way he sensed the switch.
Sensing the switch is like a Jedi thing.
One of the reasons I love the Gospel of Jude, the good news according to Jesus’ little brother, is that it’s not a letter he intended to write. He had another plan. He had the bomb sermon cued up. You know, the one that was going to change the world, the believers, and the hearts of every person everywhere all in about ten minutes. But he didn’t preach it.
Wouldn’t it be great if that kind of thing happened more often? When we aren’t sensitive to changing up our agenda to help others we can do serious damage. We come off as really clueless. That’s never the point, is it?
Ever walk into the house and not notice that your wife isn’t ready to hear all the ideas you had while you were driving home? Ever start in on them anyway? Ever not notice the dinner on the table? Ever not notice the space that got cleaned? Me neither. Ever notice the C on your kid’s report card and not the four A’s? Me neither.
Jude’s message is: sometimes you have to drop your plans so that you can do what’s needed. Sometimes the important is more important than what you thought was important.