Pastor and plumber if necessary

Another quote from Gilead. I'm guessing most pastors can relate:

A woman in my flock called just after breakfast and asked me to come to her house. She is elderly, recently a widow, all by herself, and she had just moved from her farm to a cottage in town. You can never know what troubles or fears such people have, and I went. It turned out that the problem was her kitchen sink. She told me, considerably amazed that a reversal so drastic could occur in a lawful universe, that hot water came from the cold faucet and cold water from the hot faucet. I suggested she might just decide to take C for hot and H for cold, but she said she liked things to work the way they were supposed to. So I went home and got my screw-driver and came back and switched the handles. She said she guessed that would do until she could get a real plumber. Oh, the clerical life! I think this lady has suspected me of a certain doctrinal sloughing off, and now she will be sure of it. The story made your mother laugh, though, so my labors are repaid.

Crazy or prophet? Hard to say.

I had a strange voicemail when I arrived at work yesterday. He didn't leave his name, but he said he didn't like churches set up like businesses with voicemail and fancy offices and well manicured lawns when people were out there homeless and spat upon. It was the type of voicemail you get occasionally from crazy people, except this guy spoke with an educated accent and his grammar was impeccable. But everything he said could have come out of the mouth of a crazy person.

I deleted the message and mentally put it down to one of those odd calls you get. I was also a little annoyed. He didn't speak in the context of relationship. He doesn't know me or my heart, or what I've been through in the past week. As for voicemail and lawns, I'm not sure God would be more glorified if we went back to the old answering system we used to have - I'm pretty sure God wasn't getting much glory in that - or if we let the weeds grow instead of grass.

But what really bugs me is that, in a way, he has a point. I hate it when the crazies call me and when some of what they say actually makes sense. At times it's hard to tell the crazies apart from the prophets.

Thoughts on preaching from Gilead

Gilead is a novel about Reverend John Ames, second generation pastor, who writes to his son near the end of his life in 1956.

Ames keeps his in a box in the attic. One day he figures out that he's filled 67,600 pages with his sermons, the equivalent of 225 books. Here are some of his thoughts on his sermons, spread over some 50 pages of the novel:

I think every day about going through those old sermons of mine to see if there are one or two I might want you to read sometime, but there are so many, and I'm afraid, first of all, that most of them might seem foolish or dull to me.

There is not a word in any of those sermons I didn't mean when I wrote it. If I had the time, I could read my way through fifty years of my innermost life. What a terrible thought.

I had a dream once that I was preaching to Jesus Himself, saying any foolish thing I could think of, and He was sitting there in His white, white robe looking patient and sad and amazed. That's what it felt like.

Well, perhaps I can get a box of them down here somehow and do a little sorting. It would put my mind at ease to feel I was leaving a better impression. So often I have known, right here in the pulpit, even as I read these words, how far they fell short of any hopes I had for them. And they were the major work of my life, from a certain point of view. I have to wonder how I have lived with that.

Sermons are, according to Ames, "one side of a passionate conversation." Very true. And I suspect that most preachers can relate to at least some of what Ames says about his sermons.

Arthur on my Dad

I know not everyone is as interested in my family drama as I am, but I thought this post from my brother was good:

I look at the pictures of our father and I see a man who was once so much larger than life, now looking so frail and so small I can hardly believe it is the same person I once knew.

I am both incredibly happy and incredibly sad tonight, for the man I call my Dad. I am happy that Dad is safe and well. But I am also sad at the thought of the ravages that time and age have brought about on his mind and body.

But, to be honest with you and myself, I think I am feeling sad most of all because I may never have the opportunity to tell Dad how much I love him, and to know that he understands what I am saying.