Perhaps it was John Wesley who observed that a preacher has only a few things to say, only a few sermons to preach, and that the task of preaching is a matter of addressing in newly creative and energetic ways the few essential themes. After four decades of preaching, I’m ready to agree.
Men my age are “bridge fathers.” We began being fathers in one era, and before the last child left the nest we realized that fatherly responsibilities and expectations had changed significantly. Now we find ourselves watching own sons practicing a new style of fatherhood based on assumptions which were simply not part of the culture when we started out.
The prophet Isaiah, whose words we read in Advent, gives us wonderful images of peace and of the restoration of Zion—images of the wolf living with the lamb, of waters breaking forth out of the wilderness, of a land where there shall be “no lion, nor any ravenous beast.”
Several years ago, early in Advent, I received an interesting note from the sixth-graders in the church school. “Dear Mr. Buchanan: We have some questions about Christmas. 1) Did the star stand still? 2) Were the shepherds and wise men real? 3) How was Jesus born if his parents didn’t have sexual intercourse? Please meet us next Sunday and tell us the answers.”
I recall that we used to sing “This Is My Father’s World” at the beginning of Sunday school sessions, and we would sing it every evening at church camp as we sat on the hard wooden benches. I haven’t chosen that hymn for worship for many years because I know how important it has been to move beyond masculine images in theology and liturgy.
An Alcoholics Anonymous group that has been meeting in a Baptist church in Keithville, Louisiana, for more than five years was told that it can no longer meet there. The church is forcing the group out for fear that if it lets nonchurch groups use the building, it could be forced to let it be used for the marriage of gays or lesbians. The pastor said the church was acting on the advice of an article in the Louisiana Baptist Church Message. A spokesperson for People Acting for Change and Equality said the church’s action is misguided. “Even if we have legalized gay marriage throughout the country, no church will be forced to marry gay people if they don’t want to,” she said (KSLA News, September 25).