November 15 – Why “I’ll be there” beats “I’ll see what I can do”

promiseI’m not sure I need to say much more. The teenage son tells his dad that he’ll be singing a solo at the Christmas concert. The woman tells her friend at church that she’ll be alone in the waiting room while her husband is in surgery. “I’ve just been fired. I’m heading home and don’t know what I’ll do,” the man tells his buddy from the small group Bible study.

Is there any question but that “I’ll be there” beats “I’ll see what I can do”?

Whether they are the explicit promises we make at baptisms, weddings, ordinations, commissionings and new member receptions, or the implicit promises that bind us together as friends and fellow travelers on the journey of faith, promises are the substance of the ties that bind us together.

Lewis Smedes, a theologian and Christian ethicist, once wrote,

When you make a promise, you tie yourself to other persons by the unseen fibers of loyalty. You agree to stick with people you are stuck with. When everything else tells them they can count on nothing, they count on you. When they do not have the faintest notion of what in the world is going on around them, they will know that you are going to be there with them. You have created a small sanctuary of trust within the jungle of unpredictability: you have made a promise that you intend to keep.

A promise, then, is the human essence of freedom after the style of God—it is your freedom to be there with someone even though you cannot tell what “being there” is going to be like for you.  

The freedom to be there even when you cannot tell what “being there” is going to be like for you. I like that definition of a promise.

Sunday at LPC will be a day to think about and enact the amazing gift of promising.

During worship Bret Lynn, a son of LPC who now worships with Amy and their children at Bible Fellowship, a child of the covenant – the promise, and someone I am honored to call a friend, will share with us some about how God has been at work in his life since June 17, the night he was viciously attacked in the parking lot of Ridge Auto where he and his father Dylan work as a wonderful father-son team.

The story and the message will be Bret’s to tell. But in its own way it is a story about promises – the promise God makes to never leave or forsake; our promise as followers of Christ to forgive even as we have been forgiven. No one could have known what being there on June 17 was going to be like for Bret. Our promise-making God was there, though, just as he promised. And for the past five months Bret has been learning and living out what his promises of “being there” as Christ’s own mean.

Please join us on Sunday.

Also during worship we will be offering our pledges – promises – of financial support for the church’s mission and ministry in 2014. We do so unapologetically, even eagerly. Pledging is an exercise in promising – declaring that we will be there even though we cannot tell what “being there” is going to be like for us.

All fall long you’ve been reading and hearing about stewardship, the faithful use of the gifts and resources God has given us. We have said that giving is an act of thanksgiving and an act of participation in the coming of the Kingdom. We suggest, though do not require, the tithe or 10% of income as a biblical standard to consider. We recommend the possibility of a “step up” for those of us working our way to a tithe or more. We talk about “first fruits” – not leftovers, but the first and the best. I can say unequivocally that pledging – promising – has much more to do with raising joy than raising money.

Come and listen to Bret’s story and listen for the Gospel in his story.

And then make a pledge, perhaps a surprising pledge, to be there in 2014 even though none of us knows what “being there” is going to be like for us.

“I’ll be there” beats “I’ll see what I can do” every time.

See you Sunday,