I’m not an authority on preaching. In fact, truth offered, I never preached a sermon during my seminary days because of my lacking self-confidence. The preaching professors were human, but that didn’t matter. I was afraid.
Did preach the summer of ’63 during an internship in Bountiful, Utah, just north of Salt Lake City. I never knew what a lectionary was. Guess I could be labeled a topical preaching…give me a subject and 20 minutes. As I recall, the thoughts didn’t necessarily have a biblical referencing. The people never complained…I don’t recall anyway.
Didn’t get to preaching every Sunday until my 8th year of ministry. Was frightened my thoughts would be both vacuous and shallow. It was during one of those sermons—always used a manuscript—that I lost my place. Verne Fish, a choir member offered publicly, not without humor, “Forget the paper; you’re better without it.” I took it as a joke. He didn’t.
Marinated that through with understanding the manuscript can be more a wall than a bridge. Someone expanded, “Mark, when you just talk, your heart speaks.” I took that as Gospel and for over 27 years now if you ask me for a sermon manuscript, don’t have one. Not one. That bin is empty. Very empty.
I might even be warped on sermons having a manuscript. Last Sunday the preacher never looked up, bore in on the manuscript, a boring in that had two results, both spelled the same manner.
More to my introduction to what follows. It’s about preaching. But I have always found the most connecting thought is to take the common experience and fathom its value, see how it can be purposive.
You have read of my admiration for Art Johnson, my “Saturday morning preacher”. Well, it was Sunday he wrote this. With permission to share. What I love about Art is friendship, yes, a great blessing and gift from God. But, even more, Art’s not afraid…not afraid to be humble and that’s not an excuse for anything; it’s his nature. Even more, not afraid at times to be self-denigrating. I like that. For the best reason, Art Johnson is honest. Integrity is his DNA. I trust him. I believe him. I find him so full of heart and caring…oh my, am so much the better for his friendship.
So, here’s Art…take a moment…and more…and then think of something you’ve done this past week, anything that took time and can have relevance. To say nothing is not acceptable. See where your activity moves toward your thought. Willing to do that?
“So I spent most of the day in the flower bed directly in front of our house. It is a mess being almost solid grass. While I’m working in it I’m listening to play by play from the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill PGA golf tournament in Florida. Tiger Woods is making a run on the last day. Starting 4 or 5 shots down is a big thing to overcome but he is having a great round. As he is working on his round I’m thinking he has probably never been on his knees pulling the weeds out of a flower bed. And he shouldn’t. He is way beyond that. Being one of the very best golfers that ever lived. A man that has felt and dealt with poor decisions he made that cannot be blamed on others. Or… maybe it can be… if so it will not particularly make it better. Better to say…or think…my mistake…got to get up tomorrow and go at it again…as long as I’m able.
Yeah…he hit a ball out of bounds on #16, the easiest par 5 on the course. No chance to win the tournament. A great chance to define who I am when things don’t go my way.
Not knowing exactly what led him one way or the other and without a God that is not so concerned about performance, he had to make his own way without the context of a super natural being that loves not because of you and what you can do but because of him.
When you have been performing for so long for so many it can be hard to believe you have worth beyond your performance. If you believe that then you can believe that about others. Life is performance…death is non-performance.
How small I am sitting in my flower bed pulling grass and weeds. They have taken over with a vengeance. I’m a small man? Maybe not. Just a man pulling weeds…trying to create order from chaos.
Tiger makes me feel small. But maybe that is my own self-centeredness creating that feeling. Maybe pulling weeds makes me a better person so I can connect better with a young college student in my leadership class.
Maybe I could convince that young person that there is no bad work…there is just work.
Work that is worth doing and should be done with a thought that we are here to work…to contribute…to bring order from chaos…to love unconditionally…as we would like so desperately ….to receive.
Thanks for your care for me that doesn’t depend on how well I write these thoughts.
And what better thing might person do for another.