Recently I read about a man who survived a fall off the top of a mountain. He is involved in a sport called BASE-jumping. He finds thrills jumping off of stationary objects. His parachute tangled, he hit the side of the mountain, and slammed into a tree. He almost lost his life. That man really lives on the edge.
When we think about people who live on the edge we think of people who participate in extreme sports. They take the risk of living dangerously. They push their body to the limits, and sometimes it costs them. Sometimes they suffer bodily injury, harm, or sometimes they even die. My wife enjoys stories about expeditions to the top of Mt. Everest. She reads them from the comfort of the couch. When a person dies risking their life we wonder if it really was worth it. Some people say, "You only live once." It is not for us. Living on the edge means tempting fate.
Most of us live comfortable lives with minimal risk. Sure it is sometimes dangerous to drive in downtown traffic or travel on North Avenue to the East Side instead of going around it, nonetheless, most of what we do in life is fairly tame. Maybe on vacation we do something out of the ordinary. Water parks and thrill rides have a lot of the fun but very little of the risk. Most of us live in the comfort zone.
Have you ever thought of the job of the pastor as "living on the edge?" We might think of the pastor as having a comfortable job studying the Bible, but Jesus certainly lived on the edge. He often called the establishment to the task. He spoke the truth and they hated Him for it. In the end what He said cost Him His life. They didn’t like it and so they killed Him.
Thankfully most of the time pastors never suffer physical abuse, and yet occasionally it does happen. A friend who graduated from seminary a year ago was physically assaulted by a parishioner, punched and attacked, after he asked a man about his questionable living arrangements with a single woman in the parish. I know of a pastor whose house was purposefully shot at numerous times during his ministry. This month we will celebrate the Reformation and learn about a man named Martin Luther who had a bounty on his head. Maybe the pastoral ministry is more dangerous than we think.
A pastor lives on the edge when he has the courage to preach the truth. When the pastor calls sinners to repentance it might just cost him his livelihood, his reputation, his honor, or in the case of Jesus and the faithful martyrs, even his own life. If they did it to Jesus, why should we expect anything different?
But for every pastor who lives on the edge, there are probably many more who live the comfortable life. They like their paycheck too much to say or do anything controversial. They want to be liked by the people and appreciated. They know nothing of the life of suffering of their Lord and master Jesus Christ. They look more like country club CEO’s than called and ordained servants of the Word. You can spot these pastors a mile away. Their sermons are full of jokes and inspirational stories, they are heavy on the Gospel and light on the Law, they turn worship into a carnival, they pad the seats and do anything to make the people feel nice. They practice open communion. They marry people who are living in sin. They don’t take a stand on anything. They attract the multitudes. The road to hell is paved with smiles.
Jesus didn’t live on the edge for the thrill of the moment or for any personal gain. He did the dangerous work of calling people like you and me to repentance so that we all might be saved. It was risky business, but He was willing to do it for us.
Jesus never jumped off of high buildings or rode a skateboard. But what He did do was far more extreme. He died on the cross for you and for me for the complete forgiveness of our sins. This Reformation Day that is what we will celebrate: Faith Alone. Grace alone. Scripture Alone. Christ Alone. Thanks be to God that He did it.