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Dad’s Sermons Update

It has been over a year since I last wrote about my dad’s sermons.  In case you have not read my previous posts, it was in the fall of 2016 that my sister and I found his sermons in this file cabinet in a storage building at my oldest sister’s house.

This metal file cabinet (I couldn’t remember how many drawers) stood in a closet in my parent’s condo.  After my dad’s retirement, the closet served a dual purpose of not just as a storage area but also as an “office” for my dad’s professional files.  My dad was a retired minister and all the paperwork from his 40-year ministry career was in that closet.  After my dad died (three years after our mom died), my three siblings and I took what keepsakes we each wanted, gave some things away, and the rest was moved (at least twice) by my oldest sister to where we found it on that hot Saturday afternoon in September.

Once we had removed all of the files from the cabinet, we loaded them into these plastic bins, and I took them home with me.

Being around the holidays, it was about a month later before I was able to get all of them organized into these boxes.

My dad was very organized.  Dating back to his first sermon in 1949, each sermon he wrote was inside of a numbered manila folder.  On the outside, he wrote the date, location, and time he gave that sermon, always at a different location (he apparently had no reruns, never giving the same sermon to the same congregation).  Over his lifetime, he served as a full-time Presbyterian pastor at seven different churches, thus the reason some of the sermons were given multiple times over his career.

In 2017, I began a multi-year pilgrimage to read each and every one of Dad’s sermons, starting with #1 and reading them in chronological order.  Over his career, Dad wrote 759 sermons and except for twice during Lent when I read one a day, I have been religiously (pun intended) reading one every Sunday morning.  I chose to read them on Sundays, the same day he gave them and occasionally as I am reading his words, many of them written over 50 years ago, I can almost hear his voice in my ears.

I am currently reading through a series of sermons that my dad wrote when I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1974 and winter of 1975.  Attending an in-town college, I was still able to attend church most every Sunday (I think I may have missed a few).  The added benefit was my mother always cooked a huge, delicious lunch after church so there was more than just religious motivation involved.

I thought it was quite ironic the Sunday morning I was reading sermon #499 that I received a notification from WordPress that I had just published my 500th blog post (In honor of my dad, I always publish my posts on Sunday morning).  That meant that in my five years of reading them, I had caught up with my dad’s sermons and going forward, I would be reading his sermon and publishing my post of almost the same number.  Of course, with over 250 left, unless I pick up my pace reading sermons, I will not get through all of them for at least five more years.

From my early age of four until I was in my early 20s, my dad served three of those seven different churches.  Being in a family of an active minister, it pretty much went without saying that my three siblings and I were expected to be in church every Sunday morning.   Since he would occasionally give the same sermon to different churches, it is likely that I heard the same ones at least twice and possibly three times, although I don’t recall ever thinking I was getting a rerun.

A few of the sermons were memorable, being based upon something happening at the time.  But often, it was the stories or the analogies that Dad would include that would make one sermon more notable for me.  One of these I still recall because it made such a big impression on me was about the difficult challenges we may face in our life and how to increase the strength of steel, it must be subjected to extremely hot temperatures.  In effect, while we may not understand why we are being challenged so at the time, weathering through the challenge itself makes us stronger.

Maybe I was having some challenges at that time in my life and this sermon provided me with encouragement to persevere through the challenges as I would be stronger afterwards.  Dealing with our life’s challenges was certainly a topic my dad would have preached on more than once.  I just did not know which sermon included this analogy.

Serendipitously, when I reached the milestone of his 500th sermon just a week later, it was the one I had been searching for.

Entitled “God Meant it For Good”, it is based on the story of Joseph, one of twelve sons of Jacob, who was sold into slavery by his brothers.  He suffered hardships but eventually overcame them and ultimately became second in command of the whole nation of Egypt, turning the bad done upon him into good.  The analogy that dad included in his sermon read:

“Most metals must go through a series of tests to bring out their purity and strength.  The raw material must be separated from the other natural elements.  The material is then put through the heat, and perhaps other ingredients added to bring the metal to its intended strength and beauty for usefulness.”

Reflecting to that time, I do recall I was really struggling with my freshman chemistry and calculus classes.  I had only recently made the decision to pursue a career in chemistry and doing poorly in both classes must have really made me wonder if I was heading down the wrong path.  I recalled my own dad had even been pursuing a major in the sciences before he switched to the ministry in the spring of his freshman year.

As I have written before about reading these, I have occasionally discovered something about my dad in these sermons.  With this one, it was nice to rediscover where I made this connection.  Throughout my life, whenever I have been faced with challenges, I have often thought back to this analogy.  Now I have the grounding for when I began to view challenges in a different light, maybe not so much as welcoming them, but looking beyond them to see myself becoming stronger.  And, as is often the case, I have my dad to thank for it.

So, thanks Dad for another important life message you gave to me!

4 thoughts on “Dad’s Sermons Update Leave a comment

  1. David, this is a wonderful post. Beautiful in so many ways. It sounds like your dad took great care to not give repeat sermons. Even before I got to the part about your chemistry challenges, I was thinking that even if we hear a repeat, we are likely at a different place in life – in a different frame of mind. So, we would focus on certain aspects – likely a different focus than before. In any case, these sermons are a wonderful treasure. I wouldn’t want to rush through them either. In fact, I think inspiration is best given in small doses. That way, it can be fully digested. Have you thought about preserving them for future generations?

    • Betty, thank you again for your kind, thoughtful words. These really are a treasure and just this morning after I read his sermon, I thought about digitizing them for others.

  2. How very sweet! I love the way you carry on his legacy. And I am so happy that we still have all these treasures. I have been thinking so much about granddaddy as I do my own work, hoping he is smiling down on me. I hope someday to read all of these sermons, too. ❤️

    • Thank you my sweet girl! As I was reading your reflections this morning in your Advent guide, I had that very thought of how much alike you two are in the work that you are doing. So often when I read your words and thoughts, I am amazed at the images and thought provoking ideas you espouse. I am certain Granddaddy is smiling down on you (and Nanny too).

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