Where's your diamond?

by Pastor Paul Andell (WordAlone board member; St. James Lutheran, Philadelphia, PA)

January 14, 2003

In a more perfect world or church, WordAlone wouldn't be mapping ways to recover ground that should have been safeguarded to begin with. But then this isn't a perfect world or church. Sin abounds and there are, as always, those with other agendas, sidebars and distractions—theirs, seeking to shift our focus away from lifting up Jesus Christ.

In fact, our world is looking more and more like that one in which Paul wrote: "...with its competing philosophies and religions and races." He dared to be politically incorrect, however, naming the name of Jesus, come what may. A different drummer, Paul.

Ours is a climate that suggests it doesn't matter. Truth is relative. We go along to get along.

A year ago I stood under the dome of what was once the largest church in Christendom, Saint Sophia's in Istanbul. My heart sank as I thought of the changes that monument has seen. I searched for Jesus. High over what once was the chancel, a mosaic depicted him as king - but your eye had to strain to see him at all. It made me weak. I pulled my small tour group over to one side and said, "This hasn't been a Christian church in 500 years. Let's make this a church again and invite Jesus Christ here.” They agreed and we sang, shared the gospel and prayed together.

Like Paul, we know in whom we have believed. But it wasn't just lip service that drove Paul, not accommodation of other spiritualities or sexual studies. It was, instead, a passionate desire to know Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection. Paul made it his number one priority. Everything else was secondary at best—rubbish.

My mother, a daughter of one of our church’s many faithful pastors, quietly delivered this same message to me as a child. She hung a plaque in my bedroom that read: "Only one life twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last!" There is no other gospel and nothing else like it.

Our leadership in the ELCA says they love our church, but I get the impression they'd love it more if it were embellished or something else. But it doesn't need that kind of makeover. It needs to know Jesus Christ first and last and be what it claims to be—evangelical and Lutheran. It needs to sound a clearer trumpet. We need to be captive only to the Word of God, rediscovering its fervor, not redefine its meaning.

There's our challenge, refocusing on our centerpiece, the Living Word. Formerly, I didn't know how much this expression of Christianity meant to me. These days I do.

Nearly 100 years ago, there was a man named Russell Conwell who toured Philadelphia giving the same speech hundreds of times to thousands. It was entitled "Acres of Diamonds." He suggested that many traveled the world over to find wealth or purpose and returned to Philadelphia empty-handed only to find "acres of diamonds" if only they would dig in their own backyards.(Kind thanks to Temple University Archives for granting permission to make this link to the speech: http://www.temple.edu/documentation/heritage/speech.html

"Let us who are mature," says Paul, "be of the same mind." We have our diamonds. We don’t have to go to the Saint Sophia’s of the world.

Find your voice. Be bold and lead. Be passionate, like Paul, for the sake of the gospel.

It's a matter of conscience.