Sunday, November 29, 2009

Old Sermons

Lately, I have been thinking about getting rid of some old sermons. I have not actually started throwing them away, but I have been thinking about it. Some would say that is movement toward a goal. I am not sure. The younger preachers will not face my dilemma as they are able to keep sermons on computer files. While I started using computer files back in Vidalia, i continued the practice of keeping hard copies. You know, things can get lost in computers. My problem is the 700-800 sermons I have either hand written or typed on hard copy in files in boxes in the closet. Surely, they are not all worth keeping. I am not sure what to do. Do I simply pick up each box and make my way to the dumpster? Or, do I read each one to see if it is a keeper? Or do I look at title and text and decide if it goes in the throw away pile or the keeper file? Maybe I should ask my family members to help me. It would probably not take them nearly as long as me. I know which pile would grow taller quicker.
It is, after all, not exactly something a child would want to receive as a part of the inheritance! Maybe I should do as my step-father did with his father's old sermons. He buried them. I suppose there is some merit to doing this. It would be like giving back to God what He had given. Of course, about some of them He likely would say, "I had nothing to do with that one!"
I guess it is up to me. Or, maybe you have some suggestions. If you do, I only would ask for adherence to two guidelines. One, be creative. Two, be kind.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sermon in the Sack

It has always been said that copying someone is the highest compliment. I am not sure such is always perceived as true. Few of my teachers along the way would have been excited about copied submissions when something original was what they had in mind. However, there are places where copying can be regarded as a compliment. Certainly, I hope such is true as I have been copying Bill Dupree now for over 40 years. Bill was the pastor at the Alma United Methodist Church when I went there years ago as a summer youth worker. His influence has been immeasurable over the years. He has always been such an encourager. When he did Children's Sermons, he would put an object in a brown paper sack, shake it around, ask the kids for guesses, and then pull out the object for a children's sermon. He called in a Sermon in the Sack. When I started doing Children's Sermons, I copied him. Still do. My children's sermons have always been called a Sermon in the Sack.
I thought about Bill and his idea as I started thinking about my Sermon in the Sack for tomorrow. Children's sermons are not as easy as they look. Gearing to a five year old's vocabulary is no easy task. Two or three minutes is about it. If what is to be said is not said in the briefest amount of time, the children's sermon turns into an exercise in how not to communicate. Those moments with children during worship have always seemed more about planting spiritual seeds than anything else. If a few have taken root, then I am more than blessed.
To be honest, only a few have been memorable. And to be even more honest is to admit the children and not me made memorable the ones that were. I can never forget the little girl at St. John who told us all one Sunday morning that her Momma was going to have a baby. Momma had not gotten around to telling the news herself and after the children's sermon was over, there was no need.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Advent is about anticipation and waiting. Already I find myself anticipating and Advent is still a few days away. Tonight I found myself thinking about and looking forward to the Christmas Eve Communion services. Worship in that holy moment is such a powerful experience. As I go into every Advent season, I always do so with the intention of holding off as long as possible with the Christmas music. I do not want to sing or hear songs like "O Come, All Ye Faithful," or "Joy to the World" until the Christmas Eve worship begins. Over the years I have had more than one person in congregations get upset with me as I delayed introducing Christmas music into Advent worship as a way of trying to help others experience the anticipation and waiting.
What I have discovered over the years is that most folks are not interested in either the anticipation or the waiting. It seems to go along with our instant gratification culture. We tend to get what we want when we want it. It is not just our food that we want fast; we want everything yesterday. Such a mindset really undermines what Advent is trying to accomplish as it calls us to anticipate and to wait.
So, I will do as I always do during Advent. I will try to help folks experience the essence of Advent worship. I will turn off the radio when it is an all day menu of Christmas music in mid December. I will look forward to the celebration and try not to peek in before everything is ready. I will spend more time sitting and waiting in prayer time instead of talking and hurrying on to other things. I will try to find a different pace and pray that it helps prepare my heart to celebrate the wonderful reality that a Savior has been born to save you, me, and all of us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I saw it yesterday. When I saw it, I stopped dead in my tracks. For just a moment I stood there amazed. The thing was blooming again! I had been so caught up with stuff that I had not even noticed that it was filling up with buds getting ready to bloom. So, once again this office plant caught me by surprise. Some unknown person sat it in my office long years ago while I was in Vidalia. It still is in the same pot. Actually, I should say it still suffers in the same pot for it gets very little sunlight in this office and even less watering. Somehow, it manages to survive. It is indeed a a testimony to tenacity. Some call it a Christmas Cactus, others call it a Thanksgiving Cactus. Me? I have decided over the years to call it an Advent Cactus because every year as Advent draws near, it starts blooming! I love it!
Like Advent, my cactus seems to announce as it starts budding and blooming that something is getting ready to happen. It is the visible reminder that I need to start getting ready. One of the great seasons on the Christian calendar is the season that is about to dawn upon us. Over the years people are always lamenting the early onset of a commercialized Christmas and declaring that we need to put Christ back in Christmas. We need to do something to remember the reason for the season. Interestingly, enough the church has always had this season which when properly observed accomplishes that very purpose. But, like the rest of the world, it is hard for us to wait. Once December comes we will be ready to start celebrating Christmas without wanting to go through a season of waiting and getting ready.
This Advent Cactus will not be in full bloom tomorrow or the next day, but it will happen. All I can do if I want to experience it fully is to wait. Advent invites us to a different pace of living. It calls us to anticipate and to wait. Neither of those things we do very well. But, when we wait for the curtain to draw on the Christmas scene instead of constantly looking under the curtain, we will surely experience surprising joy come Christmas.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Noah, Moses, and the Good Shepherd

The three of them have sat on my desk now for a long, long time. The desk has changed, but their places remain the same. Moses and the Good Shepherd are bookends for a small selection of frequently used books. Moses looks like the stern receiver of the law of God. The Good Shepherd is a South American version brought home by a mission team and hardly looks Middle Eastern. Noah is different. Noah stands off to himself. He is the one of the three who has character. He carries a dove in one hand and an umbrella in the other. He is the colorful one of the three wearing a blue and white robe.
Of the three, Noah is my favorite. He is my reminder of the promises of God. Some hear the name of Noah and think "ark" or "flood" or "rainbow." Me? I think promise. God made a promise to Noah that remains unbroken. No surprise there. All His promises remain unbroken. When I find myself overwhelmed and unsure, old Noah is sitting there to remind me that I can trust God and His Word.
Over the years that single gift has reminded me many times that God can be counted on to be faithful. Even when I have no understanding, I still hang on to the reality of His faithfulness in keeping His Word. His promises have proven to be more than precious. They have proven again and again that they are the bedrock upon which we can stand at any and every moment of our life.