Yesterday’s newspaper contained a great cartoon - Marmaduke running headlong at full throttle dragging his leash, with hapless owner attached face down on his stomach, through an enormous mud puddle. The next scene of the Great Dane’s bedraggled human, covered with slime as he entered the front door and confronted his wife, is priceless. Oops!
Turning the page, I chanced upon a photo of a horrific automobile crash. In the foreground of the picture is a mother. Her face is pressed against the fireman’s chest, tears streaming visibly down both cheeks as, in the background, two paramedics covered her child’s body with a sheet. I could hear her wail of anguish through the page.
A bit later, the City section displayed pictures of the elaborate funeral held for a prominent resident of this metropolis. It was held at the largest, and probably the wealthiest, church in our fair city. Numerous politicians and other influential types were in attendance and two ministers, in their ostentatious robes, delivered glowing eulogies. The flowers adorning the casket and filling the mile long procession could easily pay for a modest house in a good neighborhood.
The published tributes to this now departed gentleman failed to credit him with the leadership of the largest organized crime syndicate in the state. The paper didn’t mention the organizational skills he displayed in drug trafficking, loan sharking, prostitution or the elimination of business competitors through bribery and murder (but only as a last resort).
Last week, this same church couldn’t find the space and the ministers couldn’t spare the time to bury the daughter of one of its rare less well-heeled (make that poor) parishioners. - So sorry.
A good friend and nationally known Pastor, Dr. Larry Lilly, once told me the secret of delivering a sermon with punch. I believe that secret is demonstrated in the few paragraphs above.
“A good sermon makes people laugh, makes people cry and, above all, makes people think. Then, if it is a great sermon, it makes people act!”
This formula also applies to writing. Who could help but chuckle at the poor mud-drenched sight of Marmaduke’s owner or feel the knot of pain and empathize with that bereaved mother? Since we are created in God’s image, could anyone help but rail at the hypocrisy and callowness displayed by that apostate church?
I have delivered many sermons. When I stand at the door and receive the hearty handshakes and smiling congratulations of the exiting congregation, I know I failed!
When the congregation shuffles out with a few mumbled words of appreciation and that thousand yard stare, then I know . . . . . . .“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
It’s only on Wednesday or Thursday that I get the feedback from those in attendance. It is as if they were gripped and they themselves couldn’t let go. I return their belated praise with a question. What have you done about it?
Surprisingly, a number of them sprung into action to correct the problem, to right the wrongs in their lives. You know the sermon to which I’m referring. It’s the one that you can’t forget. It is still gnawing at you because, unlike those folks, you still haven’t acted!
Another secret. It won’t let go either. That’s the reaction we call our conscience and it will still be eating you until you stop chewing on the problem and act on it!
Now you know the goal. I see all too often a written piece of sugarcoated syrup that may make the writer feel good but is forgotten as soon as it is read.
We live in a brutal world that offers innumerable opportunities for a writer to inspire and influence change. Most of the articles I have perused miss the mark.
To move the head to think, hit’em in the heart. Nothing like a good body blow to get their attention!
Now that you have their attention, remember that people think with their heads but act out of emotion. If you want to move the heart, hit’em below the belt! (We guys know how that feels.) That should produce some action!
(If it doesn’t, try a kick – guaranteed to work!)
Often, Christians write with their “church mask” on. Producing a cutesy little ditty that to the writer sounds “oh so nice” may be momentarily gratifying, but I can assure you, it is useless. A friend described such writers with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s term as “girlie men”.
One author who doesn’t fit that mold is Aline Edson. This lady makes me think, and she doesn’t serve pabulum. Of course, eighty plus years of residence in the devil’s domicile that we call this world produces a certain amount of wisdom.
We all confront real situations on a daily basis that demand action. Some of us are able to absolve ourselves of any responsibility because of the demands on our time. We are just too busy. That’s a good excuse. (Walked past any homeless people lately? Or did you notice?)
Oops! Sorry. That’s hitting below the belt.
I’ll leave you with a quote.
“I speak the truth not so much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little more as I grow older.” Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, 1533 – 1592