Sunday, September 2, 2012

I Heard A Sermon Today

Today being Sunday, I heard a sermon. The speaker chose as his topic . . . "The Meaning Of Life". He started out quoting Camus, Sartre, and Hemingway, and ended with a story about Buckingham Palace. This particular speaker was an octogenarian. And I, along with a thousand others were hanging on every word.

Everyone knows that there are some things that get better with age . . . like cheese, and wine, and your favorite pair of jeans. I haven't usually thought to add preachers to that list. In fact, my experience has often been the opposite, older preachers often being insufferable scolds constantly whining about the good old days, starting every other sentence with, "Why, in my day..", and generally boring me to death. But this guy today was different.

At my church, we are lucky enough to hear him several times a year since he was the pastor here for 25 years, and virtually put Grove Avenue Baptist on the map, when he led the move from the Fan to the West End all those years ago. He is still a member, and amazingly, delights in playing the role of a back-bencher after being the biggest headliner this church has ever had. Most men have too large an ego, too inflated a view of their own worth to accept so low a profile at a church after such a distinguished tenure. But he is not most men.

When I hear him speak, I always marvel at the experience. What is it that is so captivating? Why does the mood of the room seem so heightened? He is a good speaker, no doubt, but I've heard better. He tells interesting stories, but he's no entertainer. He's not a screamer, doesn't stride about on the stage. It helps that he's easy to listen to, having no annoying verbal ticks, like the preacher's whispering voice. He doesn't use arcane religious lingo, and he has the good sense to not go on too long. But until today I didn't realize what made him so effective.

This man is an authentic spiritual survivor. He has been a warrior for Christ for longer than I've been alive. He has taken a machete to the thickets of life and has the scars to prove it. He has fought the hard fights of life and come through the battles without even a hint of cynicism or bitterness. Instead, there is still joy in his heart, and a face alive with passion for the Gospel. The reason we hang on the words is because we believe them, because we believe..him. He has earned our trust and respect by a life well lived, free of scandal, free of pettiness and unencumbered with ego. So we sit and listen, eager for the truth we know will come before he's through. He will make it easy for us to understand, because he knows that if it's not real for us on Monday, what's the point of Sunday?

Thank you, Vander Warner Jr.