Sunday, March 9, 2014
“Wherever you go, preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” ― St. Francis of Assisi
I am getting old, and I’ve been doing this blog for over six years now, so if I have told this story before—forgive me. Still, it bears repeating. When I was in my first full-time pastorate, I drove an all black VW Passat that I loved because it looked cool and would go fast. I drove it the fifty miles to the dealer to get some work done and when it was time to pay, I didn’t have enough money. The dealer made fun of me in front of the other customers and staff and then let me take my car anyway. I was angry and humiliated, so on my way home I took out my anger in speed. My little car could do 130 miles per hour and I was close to that as I wove in and out of traffic on the interstate that would take me home. Of course, I was wearing my clerical collar and had a “Clergy” sticker on the back window. Soon enough, there were flashing red and blue lights in my rear view mirror and I pulled over and waited. I waited a long time before the Arkansas State Trooper walked up to my window. He didn’t ask for my license and registration—he asked me to step out of the car. At this point, I was really worried. It was rush hour and there were hundreds if not thousands of cars whizzing by. He had me stand there for about five minutes before he said a word. I asked him if I was going to get a ticket. He asked me what kind of sermon I was preaching speeding and standing next to a Trooper while all the cars went by looking at me in my clerical collar with my clergy sticker on the back of the car. He didn’t say another word. He didn’t write me a ticket. He just walked back to his car, got in, and drove off, leaving me standing there with a face as red as a Razorback football helmet. I never broke the speed limit from that day to this and never, never put myself in a position where what I was preaching without words negated what I preached when I used words. I’m guessing every one of us has had something like that happen, if not quite as dramatically as my sermon was. I never learned that Trooper’s name, but I have never forgotten the gift from God he gave me that day.