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.
Thom Ranier did an unscientific study to find out why many church visitors never return to a congregation. The top ten reasons: having to stand up and greet others during the service; unfriendly church members; unsafe and unclean children’s area; no place to get information; a bad church website; poor signage; insider church language (favorite example: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GAs usually meet”); boring or bad worship services; a member asking a guest to move from the member’s seat or pew; and dirty facilities (“restrooms were worse than a bad truck stop”) (ThomRanier.com, November 11).