In late October I visited with Michael and Nancy Ristau, two dear friends who live in Lexington, Kentucky. I met Michael while speaking on a mens’ retreat for several churches in California years ago. Michael and Nancy are like other people I’ve met in my travels here and there, persons who feel drawn to form a deep and growing friendship with me. Michael and Nancy, along with their lovable German shepherd Quincy who tolerates me, have grown in Christ’s love for me and vice versa. I have twice visited the Ristau’s lovely home and stayed for several days as their honored guest. Their hospitality is real and they are so easy to spend time with because their home is a comfortable context. They place no demands on me or my daily life.
This recent trip included a visit to Asbury Seminary, where I shared the work of the Acton Institute with faculty. I also saw Alabama play Kentucky on a lovely Saturday evening at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
On a previous visit to Lexington I attended Calvary Baptist Church with Michael and Nancy, the downtown church where they worship each week. I was deeply impressed with their pastor, Dr. Robert Baker. After the sermon I spoke with Dr. Baker and told him how much I appreciated his sermon on world communion day. On this recent visit I had to drive back to Louisville in order to fly to Chicago at midday on Sunday so I could not attend Calvary Baptist.
After I returned home Michael sent me a video of the pastor’s sermon from that Sunday morning, October 13 , knowing that I would enjoy it immensely. He was right. Dr. Baker’s uncommonly warm and gentle manner is impressive, reminding me that some of the finest preachers I’ve heard are not superstars widely known as great preachers.
The sermon of October 13 is titled: “Lessons from Pope Francis.”
I honestly never expected to hear a Baptist minister preach a sermon like this one. The three lessons that Dr. Baker gave his flock about what he had learned from Pope Francis were:
- There is a shift from legalism to love that is going on under Pope Francis
- There is a shift from exclusion to inclusion that the pope is leading.
- There is a shift from self-centeredness to servanthood which is the capstone of these genuine gospel changes.
Dr. Baker stressed my life’s text in preaching this sermon: John 17:21-23.
This sermon draws deeply from an editorial written by Paul Prather, a columnist at www.kentucky.com, in a September 27 piece. In making his points about the new pope Prather quoted the famous poem:
“He drew a circle that shut me out;
heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win,
we drew a circle that took him in.”
You can see the entire sermon. I think you would enjoy it if you have the time to watch.