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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Billboard/Poster/Sign (any or all) (12/02/10)

TITLE: The Sermon
By Yvonne Leigh


“There, on the main highway, is a billboard that reads, ‘STOP VD!’ ”

Such a shocking statement from a preacher standing in the pulpit was unheard of in the 1960s. It was a time of Victorian morals. If it had to be discussed at all, the letters, “pg,” were used instead of the erotic word, “pregnant,” and VD was going to be the topic of this sermon. Nobody ever used the full words for that. I don’t know how it affected the rest of the congregation, but I was embarrassed.

It was our teen years; the time of knowledge without wisdom and power without understanding. The preacher was nearly blind and we sat in the back pews because he couldn’t see what we were doing. Had we sat in the front pew where he could see us, he probably wouldn’t have been so suspicious of our activities. This Sunday night, he had our attention. Most of us were wondering where that sign was.

His target listeners were sitting on the back row. We knew that from the tone in his voice. Parents, and his son was sitting there with us, have a certain sound in their voices when they address their wayward teenagers that doesn’t go unnoticed. At a time when acceptance is most needed, the ones who matter most begin to reject you first. For some mysterious reason, the onset of puberty has changed the light of their parents’ lives to a dark cloud over their heads. Both teens and parents have the permanent question emblazoned on their brains, “What now?”

That was what we were thinking. Were we to blame for the billboard or for the VD? It was hard to tell which had him upset, and we knew he was upset. From what I could figure out, somebody was responsible for increasing this wicked infection to the degree that it had made the detestable sign necessary. Squinting his eyes toward the back of the room, he gave us the notion that he had a suspicion where that wickedness had come from. Not to say we were the only ones in the sound of his voice.

As is usually the case when condemnation is spewing at you, we closed our ears to most of it. We caught the gist of his sermon. VD is bad, bad behavior will cause it, and that billboard is a blot on the landscape. Furthermore, since the tirade was all inclusive, the entire congregation was accountable for turning this trend around, starting with the back row, which was still out of his range of vision. For a change, the preacher’s son was quiet. In fact, it was the one Sunday night that the hymn book wasn’t passed down the pew in our primitive text messaging system using song titles.

When the service ended, we in the back led the charge out the door. Standing on the walk with his friends, the embarrassed preacher’s son was explaining the deeper truth. Although his dad’s message was right for what he saw, what he had looked at was through damaged eyes. Rather than a message demanding morality, the sign actually was encouraging donations for research to end MD. He had misread the M.

With impaired vision, he had grabbed the headlines, ignored the smaller print he could not read, and created his own message without discussing it with his wife. Thus the resulting lecture on sexual impurity.

Over the fifty years since that night, I also have gone on rants about things I had no real information on. Thankfully, it wasn’t such a public one as that one. It has taken that many years for me to learn to keep my mouth shut unless I know more than the headline about a subject. As remarkable as that one sermon was for its time, I probably took away from it more life lessons than from most I’ve ever heard. In the time that has passed, we no longer have VD because it has been simplified to STD, which now includes AIDS. As embarrassing as it would be, perhaps we do need a billboard that demands sexual morality. I, personally, have never seen one.

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This article has been read 254 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Nancy Bucca12/11/10
Another unique take on the topic! It reminds me of my teenage years, not in terms of church, but in terms of getting too much of that sort of information in school and how embarrassing it all was. It makes you wish more pastors would teach teens how to fight that information overload.

Only one thing I would add to this piece to make it better understood: What did the MD stand for?
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/13/10
You told a great story. The first line hooked me like a fish and you reeled me in like a master. I loved the nice twist in the end and how you were able to include a few important messages without sound preachy or pompous at all. That takes great skill.

I did smile in the end when you explained VD is now known as STD because the politically correct world is constantly change the PC phrase. Today it is more acceptable to say STI (apparently infection is less offensive than disease) which just reinforces your belief that maybe instead of worrying about being PC we should try to eradicate the need for the term altogether.

The judges are going to have a very tough time this week as your article is also one of my favorites!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/13/10
I saw Nancy's question after I commented and thought I would attempt to answer. Muscular Dystrophy was the likely disease they were trying to eradicate:)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/16/10
Congratulations for placing 6th in your level!