Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Helping my son

The end of last week immersed me in long international phone calls with my son, Rob, who lives in New Jersey.  Sadly, the pastor of his church had suffered a heart-attack and he was asked to step in as preacher.  This was both a surprise and an ordeal.  The last time he preached was in 1999! Rob threw himself into preparation.  He is an associate professor of radio journalism at William Paterson University, so he has plenty of creative energy and communication skill.  Looking back we went through three major phases.
  • initial surge of creativity around the text that he felt compelled to preach on - John 14: 1-6.  He poured out insights about Jesus' promise 'Let not your hearts be troubled'.  The extraordinary way he was promising this for us when he had yet to face so much trouble on our behalf.  And, in particular the metaphor of 'many rooms' wouldn't go away.  What did this mean for the future and how did it spark ideas for current 'rooms'?  It was wonderful listening to his mind and heart.
  • the next major call came as the embryo sermon was being fashioned.  Much of it was already being written out.  At great speed he dashed through the outline.  It took him nearly 20 minutes but....guess what?  it would have taken 40 plus minutes in its present form and it comprised three different sermons.   He had to begin the difficult task of editing down to the key point and ensure that it was presented clearly without clutter.
  • the next major, major call came with a completely re-written sermon.  Since his early draft Prince had died and gave him a startling opening instead of his earlier thoughts.  I marveled at the way he had cut out so many precious ideas and stories yet retained such life and passion.  He called it 'Four Rooms' with reference to a dentist's room, his standing in a demolished room hours just hours after the Indian tsunami, the church community and its pastor, and...of course, the eternal promise of God's presence. Each linked well with a glorious conclusion.
At the end he commented: 'Phew!  Preparing sermons is really hard work, Dad!  How many hours it takes! I appreciate so much more what goes on behind hearing a sermon. I really do!'   I rejoice that it appears to have helped the congregation from the many comments made, and his wife gave a positive assessment (though I guess wives generally do!)  I felt it was a privilege to help out transatlantically. The first time I  have used my teaching with my family!

1 comment:

Brian Astell said...

Wonderful to read about Rob. Last time we met as a family -picnic lunch in your garden at Hills Road 1985, I think he was a bit agnostic -or at least "kicking at the goad". Wonderful to discover how he and his brother worked out. God bless, Brian