This past Sunday, having just returned from vacation, Pam and I missed church. Later we discovered that Vander Warner had been the speaker since Mark Becton was away. So, last night I saw where his sermon was posted online. I settled into my recliner and pressed play.
There he was, in a dark suit and red striped tie, looking virtually unchanged from how he looked twenty years ago standing in that very spot every Sunday as pastor of a Grove Avenue Baptist. Now well into his 80's, he has lost nothing off his fastball, still confident and commanding. He's the kind of presence in the pulpit that makes you sit up a little straighter in your pew because he might be about to say something profound. It didn't take long...
" It is too late in human history to waste time on Sunday mornings, too late for feel good sermons, too late not to care..."
At that point he could have dropped the microphone and walked off the stage.
In that one artful sentence, the man encapsulated every bewildered, confused thought I have ever had about the efficacy of the church over the past ten years. In that one sentence he summed up the reason for the decline of faith in the public square.
Then it occurred to me that in all the time I have sat under his preaching, although I may not have always agreed with every interpretation, or cared for every emphasis, Vander Warner Jr. has never wasted my time. God has always managed to speak a nugget of divine truth through him, and I have always been able to hear it, because he has always communicated it with such grace and lyrical precision.
Vander freaking Warner. The man is a marvel.