I’m not sure it mattered. That’s not a flush of “oh gosh,” but probably a reality of the time and place.
Actually two lessons resulted.
My home church–Zion Congregational Church in Portland, Oregon–asked me to preach my first sermon. Was a week or two after my sixteenth birthday, summer of 1956. Think it was probably “safe,” that is, a youth speaking on a low-attendance summer Sunday.
Obviously the sermon could not be based upon any theological wisdom, let alone education and experience. So, what to preach?
Preached what was important to me, guess that’s what happened. My text–the “scripture” officially was Philippians 3:12-16, in which Paul urges focus upon giving a good effort in the moment. [Sounded pretty benign I would guess.]
But, what really was “the text,” probably because the source sounded religious, was one of the “Ten Commandments of Baseball” by Billy Southworth. It went like this, If what you’ve done yesterday looks big to you, then you haven’t done much today.
I believed that. Not sure much verbiage came out of the “pressing on to that which lies ahead” from the Apostle Paul. But, a WHOLE LOT measured making this day, this moment, this possibility in this circumstance as strong, viable and relevant as possible.
I’m sure I didn’t use some of those multi-syllabic-words, but hey, at 16 the focus upon the day’s effort seemed apt.
No less for today.
The other lesson I learned later.
Zion Congregational Church had two Sunday worship services then. Before the church atrophied and fled to the white suburbs. But, that’s for another day.
On that June Sunday in 1966 my mother planned on their regular worship schedule–attend the second service.
But. My father had another gameplan. He got up and started to put on his Sunday togs.
“Hank,” my mother inquired, “What are you doing? It’s too early to go to church. Mark has left and we can get there for the second service.”
My father, who never made a short story long, responded, “Look at it this way, Es. If he were pitching both games of a doubleheader, we’d go to both, right?”
They were there. For both services. For both services. They were there.
Two indelibly relevant lessons for me to not forget: make the most of today and be present.