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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Encouragement (02/23/12)

TITLE: Transparency, The Key?
By Kathleen Langridge


Standing in the pulpit, Colleen looked out on the beloved people of St. David’s Parish Church. These first moments were often a battlefield of fear and faith. Would her words be Spirit-filled, nourishing hungry hearts? Would the reality of Jesus be obscured by age, culture, or personal perspective?

“Oh, Lord” -- and then the prayer came flowing out, from a heart prepared, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of ‘our’ hearts be acceptable in Your sight, Oh, Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.”

Later, standing at the door facing the sea, Colleen shook hands and chatted with regulars and visitors alike. There were hugs and holy kisses, smiles and quiet nods of heads. Through the thinning crowd, came Reverend Chase.

“How many nice’s today, Colleen?”

“Oh, the usual plus a few from visitors. A few seemed touched, maybe even one or two uncomfortable, so it seems like the classic response. But only our Father knows; it’s His business.”

“How are you coping with the ‘nice sermon, preacher’ response, these days? Still find it irritating? I know I’m not immune, yet.”

“Honestly?” Colleen’s smile left her eyes. “It still digs at me, especially from the ones who always say it. I wish it wasn’t so, but there it is. I am wondering if we should include a short skit, on a Sunday when I am not preaching. Maybe overplaying it like a pantomime might open some hearts.”

“Possibly. Let’s pray into it and talk about it at staff meeting, tomorrow. For the record, I did not think it was ‘nice.’ I was convicted, strengthened, and comforted. I needed to hear that Isaiah 12 passage. For me it is the way you weave personal experiences, in blatant honesty, amongst the truths of the passage. Always ending up with God’s perspective. You say things from the pulpit I would never dare say; yet, you are never harsh or pushy. Good job today, Colleen.”

As Colleen listened to Jim’s comments, she watched the sea through the open doors of the church. Today the waves did a diamond dance in the reflected sunlight, yet they were gentle as the sandy shore absorbed them. Jim’s words were like that to her heart; a refreshing presence of Jesus saying, “Well done and welcome to My rest.”

Turning toward Jim, Colleen smiled and simply said, “Thank you.”

On Monday, the staff gathered. Following a time of worship in the side chapel they walked over to the vicarage. Soon, each one had their favorite coffee cup and was comfortably settled in their chair of choice, the vicarage living room being gently bathed in the warmth of spring sunshine.

“Most of you have shared that after prayer, you think the skit idea of ‘Nice Sermon, Preacher,’ is a good choice, for Sunday. With hope in her heart, Colleen has written the skit and emailed copies to us. Does everyone have their copy?”

Holding onto the hope Jim mentioned, Colleen saw six heads nod in agreement.

“Colleen, lead us on.”

A read through and discussion followed, parts were cast and the meeting ended with Reverend Chase reading the scripture he had chosen for Sunday from the Lectionary.

“Guilty!” said Estelle Clark, as she grabbed Colleen’s hands at the door the following Sunday. Colleen shot a quick, silent arrow prayer to keep from shouting, HALLELUJIAH!

“I saw myself saying those puny words almost every Sunday and realizing I never once told you, or Reverend Chase, how your sermons really impact my life. Will you forgive me?” Estelle asked.

Forgiveness flowed and hugs were shared, followed by several others confessing their part in the ‘Nice sermon, preacher’ conspiracy.

The following day as the staff gathered for their monthly fellowship lunch at the vicarage, Jim asked Colleen, “So what do you expect next Sunday after your sermon?”

Laughing, Colleen answered, “I expect Norman to say, while trying to keep a straight face, ‘Nice sermon preacher.’”

Everyone laughed and looked at Norman, the faithful Steward.

“Well, that won’t work now, will it?” Norman said.

“Actually, because of the openness and honesty many showed, last Sunday, I am quite hopeful. It seems there has been a breakthrough in encouragement that only living transparently can elicit. In sermons and skits we have shared how ‘Nice sermon, preacher’ may seem like kindness but can leave the hearer’s heart empty. I am praying into a sermon series, starting on Sunday; ‘Transparency, The Key to Encouragement.’”

This is fiction based on personal experiences.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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This article has been read 443 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Wilcher03/02/12
I related to; "These first moments were often a battlefield of fear and faith. Would her words be Spirit-filled, nourishing hungry hearts? Would the reality of Jesus be obscured by age, culture, or personal perspective?"

Very nice story..Thanks!
Nancy Bucca03/04/12
I hear that bit about "Nice sermon" sounding a bit vague and overdone, yet find that in some bigger churches that may be all a person has time to say as the pastor greets the exiting crowd on their way out the door!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/08/12
I like this and relate it to the writing world. Many people leave comments on stories that are meant to be encouraging but after a while seem to be rote. It's nice to hear the positive but important to be honest so the preacher/writer can grow.

Some of your transitions were a tad abrupt. You had the reader in the meeting with the staff rehearsing then suddenly Estelle was commenting then they were back in a meeting again. Try to smooth those transitions.

I really like your message. It's important to be encouraging but sometimes what we may think is encouraging isn't at all. I think one really needs to look into one's own heart and ask God for the right words. Sometimes a simple smile is enough encouragement while other times we need to let God do the talking for us.

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/08/12
Congratulations for ranking 9th in level one!