Sermon Excerpt: Friend of Sinners

I am huge baseball fan as many of you are aware. When I lived in Milwaukee our home sat nestled into a cozy little neighborhood less than four miles from the historic old County Stadium that housed the likes of Warren Spawn, Hank Aaron and Robin Yount. While we lived there the Brew Crew built a new state of the art stadium complete with a retractable roof named Miller Park. One of the challenges of both stadiums revolved around parking, so a number of local restaurants and taverns on Blue Mound road provide free shuttle vans to and from the game for their faith.

 

There was a young lawyer in our church who often invited me to the games and we made it a habit of grabbing lunch or supper before the game at one of the restaurants on Blue Mound road and then catching the shuttle to and from the game. On this particular afternoon both of us were running a bit late, and the Brewers had schedule an early afternoon tilt, so we met at the restaurant/tavern and caught the van to the game.

 

After the game, my friend suggested that since we ridden the shuttle we needed to at least go in and have some appetizers before we headed home for supper. I agree, and that is where the fun began. We walked into the tavern and he went straight to the bar and sat down. By the way did I mention to you that I have never had a beer in my life? In fact, Nyquil stands out as the strongest substance I have ever consumed. Being a good Baptist, and especially a Baptist preacher from the South I knew better than to go to a bar, but here I was in quite a dilemma.

 

Not wanting to make a scene for my friend and church member, I just followed him and pulled up a stool at the bar thinking to myself, “What would Jesus do?” So far so good, but now came the tricky part. What was I going to drink? Being a grown man I did not want to order a “Shirley Temple” but at the same time, my convictions would not allow me to order a beer even for a sip. Thankfully, I remembered that a local brewery produced a rather full bodied root beer, so when the young bartender asked me what I wanted to drink I told her, “Give me a root beer in a dirty glass”…I just added the dirty glass part.

 

In a matter of seconds there I sat at the bar with a mug of root beer in front of me, and I was doing my best to just blend into the scenery. I sat there thinking to myself, if only my dad an ol’ time Baptist preacher could see me now. The last place I ever expected to be was at the bar drinking root beer with my buddy. At this point the situation took a turn toward the bizarre. Apparently my buddy was a regular and sitting around the bar were a number of his friends and colleagues. Once we had our drinks one of his buddies asked “hey, who is your friend?” My friend and church member in a loud voice fit for the court room declared to one and all. “Hey guys, this is David—MY PASTOR.”

 

I can still remember the chill down my spine when he announced to one and all his pastor was sitting at the bar. The funny thing was no one was shocked or even surprised. One and all said hi and introduced themselves to me. They asked about what church I was the pastor of. They could tell from my accent I was not from Wisconsin, so we talked about moving from Texas. Over the course of the next thirty to forty-five minutes I fit in rather nicely at the bar talking to a group of new found friends.

 

To be honest that was the last time I sat at a bar, but I must admit I would not be afraid to go back. However, if I did, I know I might get a reputation in town that could be cause for a special called deacon’s meeting. However, if that happened I think I would find myself in good company with my Lord Jesus who often was accused of being a “friend of tax-collectors and sinners.” Yes, you heard me right, when Jesus was nicknamed the “friend of tax-collectors and sinners” it was not a complement, it was an accusation. The Pharisees criticized him over and over again for being too soft on sin and sinners.

Luke 15

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

In essence Jesus was saying, “You want to criticize me for loving sinners, you need to take a good long look into the face of God. God rejoices when one sinner repents.” When one sinner repents there is joy in heaven—great joy!

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