This September, 2009 I visited a Southern Baptist Church in Vacaville, CA USA (north of San Francisco by 80 miles or so). My reason was to interview Pastor Bob Lawler on the subject Sunday School, for an article.
After the interview in his office, during lunch, we talked of various spiritual and religious matters, too. The purpose, inspiration, and practice of the sermon by the preacher was part of the discussion.
Pastor Lawler of First Baptist Church in Vacaville, whose number of family unit membership is near 500, said that a sermon in his Church could go 45 minutes, or more. It was the Holy Spirit at work in the sermon, as much of what is said in that preaching time–the result of referral to notes, not to completely typed out written text.
I said, in my Church (Episcopal in Mill Valley, CA USA), the sermon goes about 12 minutes. Surely, the liturgy of the Word is emphasized in the Southern Baptist tradition.
As part of our inter-religious dialogue, we mutually agreed that the Holy Spirit was at work. My friend Linda, who helped me drive to visit Pastor Bob and see his Church for the interview, agreed.
This morning as inspired by his remarks on the work of the Holy Spirit, I wrote this poem. My effort as response to Pentecost in September and a wonderful visit to First Baptist Church, where Pastor Leroy Gainey is Senior, and wrote by email to come visit for my story on Why are Southern Baptists called The Sunday School Church was very successful. I am glad Pastor Leroy had me talk with Pastor Bob Lawler. A very good interview and hospitable visit.
Preacher and Word of Holy Spirit
A poem by Peter Menkin
What comes here now…?
Sensibly bring to talk
The Holy Spirit.
Modern days, 21st Century
In this State, in this County, in this town;
let’s not speak of religion,
Or faith, or spiritual terms
This post Christian era—
Its despair of no God, Christ(?)
What is: What comes?
Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost—
That Word, the Word,
What comes here now.
Speak in sermon, spontaneously
We say, and mention the work
Of the Holy Spirit in this enterprise
Of preaching, saying from the pulpit,
The lectern, standing before the faithful,
Of Gospel: breathing language.
Tame words, not so–always, but passion
Of history, time, man, Christ
And God, Holy Spirit. Always.
What comes here now…?
I believe, so the preacher preaches,
And he writes or says extemporaneously
Talk driven and meant for listening to & for
Of Pentecost, the tongues of language and flame,
Its working ways come forth! Halleluajah!
Christ is Risen, come Holy Spirit.
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