As I have been on a sabbatical and have had the opportunity to attend several of the congregations of the district I serve I have had the great opportunity to listen to others as they preach and have pondered why and what it is that I am called to proclaim, namely the gospel message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I don’t preach of fire and brimstone, as some may be easily confused, but I do preach with a fire and a passion. I have heard the many that desire to hear a message of comfort and peace to extend the comfort that they live and lead and to hear of the love of Jesus while avoiding Jesus altogether because, inevitably, when one hears of Jesus they will be lead to the ugliness of the cross and the suffering which he endured in that love. Oh, how often I wish that the message of Jesus could avoid that ugly reality and only have the resurrection in which we could focus our hearts on that we would be content to the depths of who we are believing that we would not have to face such suffering. Would it be true? I wish that what I knew in this world were souls filled with fear and trepidation that the law was coming down on their heads in the search for a savior, but, unfortunately I see a world very comfortable and find a savior in other things (or so it would seem). I see many that seek a message of hope in self by doing the right things that lead to the good life, but often lack the one thing which our Lord and our Savior Jesus died for. Many find comfort in their lives and wish to avoid the ugliness of suffering or see suffering only as a punishment for living a life that does not fit the “holy” picture that they have painted for themselves as they seek after comfort in things that offer no life. They seek ministers that proclaim this comfort, which there are many that are willing, but what happens in the long run? What transformation occurs? Now I cannot and will not limit the power of our Lord and Savior and his Holy Spirit which moves us to him and say that none that are drawn into this comfortable message are not moved to faith because most that proclaim this message are not so daft as to avoid the Word of God altogether but the majority continue on in life feeling quite content with the life in which they lead. The other extreme is to preach a message of brimstone and hellfire which puts one in discomfort, but leaves one seeking out the loving arms of Jesus finding them not. This is only the other half of the twin of deceit and seeks only comfort in self (self-affirmation, self-action, self-justification). One who believes in the doing of faith alone misses what has been done. What I proclaim is a message that leads to the uncomfortable message of the cross where we see the suffering Lord Jesus Christ in which we are helpless in bringing comfort, but see how we partook in the pounding of the nails. We look to the ugliness and the gashes in our Lord’s sides and realize that they were not only done for us, but done by us because we led him there to protect our comfort. It is when we look upon this cross and the death of our Lord we find that we too must die. It is not a path to celebrate our suffering, but to see that in our suffering it requires our dying so that Christ may live within us. It is this fire that burns deep within me as I daily die and am renewed in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It is this Christ that brings comfort through suffering and through struggle and leads me into the loving arms of a Lord that has freed me. May this truth be the only truth that pass through my lips to the ears of the hearers that all may come to know the Savior.