Due to a busy fall, it was over a month before I got a chance to start going through Dad’s sermons.
Another item that my sister gave me was this small black book she had had since he died. Inside was a typed list of all his sermons in numerical order. Based on this book, I should find 706 file folders, one for each sermon he had written.
At random, I pulled a couple of folders out and started going through them. On the outside of each folder was the date and location of when the sermon was given. I noticed on some of the folders that the sermon was given a number of times over the years, always at a different location (he apparently had no reruns, never giving the same sermon to the same congregation).
On others, the sermons were given as few as only once or twice. I pondered if this meant in my dad’s opinion, that this sermon was not good enough to be given more than a couple of times. Or more likely as I found in one sermon folder, it was written for a special one-time occasion.
As I had seen when I read my dad’s book of 32 sermons last year, some of the text was all in caps and some was in both caps and lower case letters. But in these sermons, there was underlining in four different colors, green, purple, red and black. I wondered what the significance of the different colors meant to my dad. Obviously they served as visual cues as to how he should speak or the tone of voice he might use. But unless I could find a legend somewhere in his files, the secret of the color-coding might be lost forever.
I also found in the folder, the church bulletin from each Sunday the sermon was given. I remembered in conversation with my sister about the files, that the hymns were specifically selected to go with the sermon topic. So while the old bulletins might be nostalgic to me much like a retained copy of each course brochure I have taught over the last 20 years, for my dad, the bulletins simply documented the hymns that should be used each time that sermon was given.
While I had pulled these files at random from one of the three bins, it was interesting when I began to notice that these were written the year I got married. I scanned through the folders that fall and specifically opened up the one my dad gave the day after I got married. It gave me an idea that I could go back and find significant dates in our lives and see what words my dad spoke on those Sundays around that time.
Returning to the black book, I began to go through it to see what all it contained. While the listing of his sermons were only a few loose sheets in the front, I wondered what the rest of the book contained.
The first few pages seemed to be notes written for a Bible study of the book of Matthew.
There were also individual hand-written note pages where my dad was mapping out each chapter of Matthew, verse by verse. It appeared to be incomplete as it ended at chapter 5, well short of the 28 chapters in the book of Matthew. This might have been where his Bible study group ended but was never picked up again. Or this might have been as far as he intended to cover it. I would never know the reason.
In the rest of the book were additional sermons, much shorter than the sermons in the file folders I had just looked through. I pondered why these would be separate but then I noticed up in the top right corner of each separate sermon, a small written date followed by (p.m.). Then I remembered that during our years in West Monroe, in addition to Sunday school at 9:45 AM and the morning service at 11:00 AM, there was an abbreviated Sunday evening service at 7:00 PM. This recollection brought back a vague memory of me dreading to have to go back to church on Sunday evening. It seemed I had already spent my whole morning at church, why should I have to go back in the evening? But we did.
These pages chronicled his shorter sermons for those Sunday evening services. The earliest one I could find in the book was from August, 18 1963. The last one was dated January 31, 1965 and counting them all up there were 49 additional sermons not included on his typed list of folders sermons.
At that point the sermons ended. I don’t know if the evening service was discontinued at that point, or if after that Dad just didn’t use prepared notes for his sermon. It wasn’t too long after that date that we moved to Arkansas to a new church so it could just be that the services ended.
To be continued…