Sunday, March 13, 2016
“Preach every day. If necessary, use words.” ― St. Francis of Assisi
I’ve told this story before, but, as it’s true and happened to me, it is worth rewriting and rereading (if you’ve read it before). Back in the nineties, I had a Volkswagen Passat that I really liked. As I was the new pastor of two rural churches in Arkansas, I sold it soon after we had moved from Boston and bought a Ford Ranger pick-up truck—much more sensible. However, before I sold it, I had driven into Fayetteville from Gravette, Arkansas, for a meeting that ran very late. It was also a meeting where a man I thought was a friend attacked me verbally and upset me greatly. I left the meeting feeling betrayed and sad. I headed back to Gravette in my Passat going very fast, taking out my anger in speed. It was rush hour, so there were lots of cars on the interstate, and I was weaving in and out and approaching speeds of 100 miles an hour. Suddenly, my rear-view mirror was filled with flashing blue and red lights, and I was pulled over by an Arkansas State Trooper. I knew I was busted good and proper and got my driver’s license, registration and insurance all ready to give the trooper. I waited in my car with the clergy sticker on the back and wearing my clerical collar as I almost always did. The trooper walked up to my window, and, as I was ready to hand him my papers, he asked me to get out of the car. Oh man, I was in for it now. I had never been asked to get out of the car before. I stood there by the car and next to the trooper and waited for him to say something or put handcuffs on me. He didn’t say anything as hundreds and hundreds of cars went past, slowly, since his red and blue lights were still flashing. I could see the faces of almost every driver and passenger as they passed by. Finally, the trooper spoke (without ever having asked for my license or registration). He said, “Preacher, what kind of sermon do you think you’re preaching to all these people passing by?” We stood there together not speaking for about five minutes--it seemed like an eternity. Finally, he looked at me, shook his head, and went back to his car. He pulled out and drove past me with me still standing beside my car. I got back in my car without so much as a ticket or a warning, but as a changed man. I’ve never gotten stopped for speeding since, as I stopped speeding. The trooper preached a better sermon than the one I was preaching standing there in my clerical collar. I don’t know his name, but I will always believe he was sent by God to teach me one of life’s great lessons. The best sermons are the ones that don’t require any words and are the ones lived rather than spoken. What sermon are you preaching?