There is a hole inside of you (Part III – The Grand Finale)

Dr. Craig Barnes

This is Part III of The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes sermon at Wake Forest University’s Baccalaureate service on May 15, 2016.  Part I can be found here: There’s a Hole in You (Part I) and Part II here: There’s a Hole in You (Part II).

And over against that temptation, stand pastors in churches all around the world, right in front of the altar, holding up the sacrament.  And one after another, their parishioners come forward to them with lives that are far from whole and complete.  And there is an extraordinary moment when a pastor and a parishioner meet at the altar. The pastor is holding the broken body of Christ, the parishioners come up one after another, and then there is this moment of spiritual intimacy when the Pastor looks the parishioner in the eye.  We remember the job that was lost.  Or the diagnosis of cancer. Or the prodigal son. Or the dream that is never going to come true. Or the cherished old lover who was left behind in the grave.


A Savior who commissions us…who gives us not what we were itching for, something far better.  A glorious mission and purpose to lives, lives that can make a world of difference. There is a glorious mission for your life. You weren’t brought here by accident…Don’t try to get your life just right before taking up that mission.

In the words of John Calvin, All Rise.

Leave the garden better than you found it.

That’s your mission.

To leave our society better than you found it.

But you’re not going to be able to do that unless you know how to steward that thing that is missing. This is what gives you freedom actually that thing that’s missing. You’ve got choices as to how you respond to it.

One of the beloved members of my family is a hairy sheep dog. His name is Esau. Religion majors will get that. Esau is not just beloved, he is a good dog. He is obedient.  He is well trained. But if you were to show up on our front porch with a hot dog, he will follow you anywhere.  The beast that he is, he is driven by his appetites. Part of what it means to be made in the image in God, is to have the capacity to rise above your appetite, to make choices that are worthy of you. To use your life to for something that will make a difference even if doesn’t feel good along the way.


It was as if Mrs. Williams was proclaiming a holy mystery to us in the third grade.  And here it is:

God is not easy on the people God uses.

If you look at the people who got caught in the biblical drama, by the end of their lives, all of them were discolored and pretty much taped together. The Apostle Paul ends his life after being kicked out of most of the towns in the Roman Empire, usually with a shower of rocks behind him, he’s in jail, and what is it though that he writes about?  His prison epistles are all about the surpassing joy he has in how his life was used.  Why? Because he got caught up in the drama.  Because he was used. He had so many holes in his life, he had a thorn even that he prayed for God to remove, and God would not, saying my grace is sufficient for you, don’t get distracted by this thorn in the flesh, get back to your mission. That’s all that he wanted. So, he ends his life so joyfully because his life was used.  So can yours be. It can be caught up in a great holy drama.  God’s drama with the world around us. You can play a role in that.

But you have to have an altar.

A place where you bring your yearning in exchange it for a holy mission.

In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.


~ The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes, President and Professor of pastoral ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. An excerpt from his sermon on Sunday, May 15, 2016 at the Baccalaureate at Wake Forest University



  1. Amen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. what a powerful message –

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, some form of an Altar!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Powerful David. We have to rise above our appetite – love that line. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. perhaps a good message for a younger person. But as someone in their 70’s, I look back, at my life and say, Not what I expected. Not what I had hoped for. How is it I am alone? I did my best and there are many good things. But this sermon only reminded me that your best does not always bring forth your vision. Better to “rise up joyful like a bird, fall without regret like a leaf.” Better to “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Thank you David for those days that I read your posts and can still feel hopeful about the future, thankful for the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Profound. Resonates and stings.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Blessed are those who believe in Christ. For they have the perfect someone to bring their burdens to when they are too much to bear. His cross is His alter. The same alter upon which the Holy Eucharist is consecrated. And when the believer consumes the Bread of Life he becomes aware of the sense in his suffering.
    Christ came into the world to die so that we would live. The greater part of every person’s life is to live it as Christ commands. And in so doing the world “will” be left better for it; and, as well, that person will where the crown of glory promised to those who take to their cross and follow Him, who Himself is Glorified, in like kind.

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