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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Checkout (06/09/11)

TITLE: Pulpit-ations: or "How I Discovered the "Mess" in "Message."
By Noel Mitaxa


Preaching is an adventure. It looks like a monologue, but works better as a dialogue; when preachers speak into the hearts and minds of congregations to invite them into God’s grace and truth. Yet could I coin the term “trialogue;” to embrace the reality that three personalities are involved.

“A sermon is a word from God to people about how to live,” is a college lecturer’s definition that shapes any sermon I prepare: neither verbal work of art; nor skilled performance; but opening my heart to my God and to my people – inviting them to also open their hearts to God’s grace.

Preparation is one thing, but delivery is another. Many preachers use full manuscripts, though I prefer to use points to allow for spontaneity and eye-contact with my congregation. For if I can’t remember what I have to say before I’ve said it, how can I expect them to remember it after I’ve said it?

Mostly this has worked well, but spontaneity can create interesting experiences - hence my alluding to increased pulse-rates within my title.

Once, when preaching about Matthew 5’s Beatitudes, I mentioned our own happiness in celebrating my parents’ golden wedding the day before. Delight swept the congregation, as I heard myself saying: “And this year we celebrate my grandfather’s one-hundredth birthday!”

As a much louder sigh greeted this news, my heart began racing. “How can I get out if this?” I asked myself; when the right words suddenly arrived: “Unfortunately, he won’t join our celebration; he died twenty-three years ago!”

The place erupted in enough laughter to ensure that nobody recalled the rest of my sermon.

More recently one Christmas, I was seeking to emphasise the shepherds’ terror at being suddenly bathed in light centuries before Edison had invented the incandescent bulb (which his critics had dismissed as a mere filament of his imagination!) Besides that, to be visited by angels was then considered to be a death sentence.

I intended to mention being almost shot dead at age sixteen, which would have been my own checkout to hell, before I became a Christian.

Instead, I felt prompted to offer a roving microphone for anyone to relate their most frightening moments, when they might have also faced a checkout with death.

One man described driving towards the setting sun and feeling two bumps under his car; before hearing a train come thundering through behind him, over a level crossing he had not seen!

A lady described her fear of waking one hot summer night, and seeing the red glow of fires all around the horizon, until she sensed God’s peace corroding her anxiety.

Then dear old Bob raised his hand. He was almost ninety and, after a deprived childhood in Cockney London, he’d been a paratrooper in the second-world-war and in Korea. He always spoke softly, so we were all ears...

“During the war,” he began, “I was in Palestine, and I jumped out of the plane – and my parachute didn’t open!”

There was a gasp, which Bob quickly defused as he wrapped up the episode with a memorable piece of understatement: “But then, about two hundred feet above the ground, it did open. And I was pleased.”

The gasp erupted in hilarity and wonder throughout the flock that morning, as Bob gently stole the show. Yet his warmth showed through.

I can’t recall how I followed his contribution, but his testimony was clear that only God knows when our final checkout time will arrive, however scary things might look at any point until that moment.

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This article has been read 603 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Virgil Youngblood 06/16/11
Delightfully told with a reminder to be ready always, not only for the final checkout but for those unexpected moments in life that keep us on our toes. A fun read with a pertinent message.
Linda Goergen06/16/11
Your passion for preaching and your talent for writing both shine here,
blending into entertaining, amusing perfection to deliver some powerful spiritual truths!
Great job! Loved the read!
Beth LaBuff 06/16/11
Your creative "trialogue" makes sense and your philosophy "If you can't remember what you have to say before you've said it: how can you expect them to remember is after you've said it?" bought a smile. That's quite a tongue-twister. :) I would have liked to have seen your congregation's reaction to the "mere filament of his imagination," too. :) You've had the most fascinating people as part of your congregations. When I read your soft-spoken Bob's "And I was pleased," -- I think my reaction mirrored your flocks.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/17/11
If this is just a sample, I know I'd love to hear you preach. Your passion for the Lord, your love for your congregation, and your delightful sense of humor contribute to your success as a minister and as a writer.
Helen Curtis06/17/11
I, too, would love to be a part of your congregation! This was a delightful read. Well done.
Laury Hubrich 06/17/11
I would love to be in your congregation sometime!) Loved this!
Danielle King 06/18/11
Me too. I'd love to be a member of your congregation. Could we get a bus trip organised? I'm in full agreement with all those above comments and I especially liked your clever title. By that alone I would have known it was you! Great piece. Keep 'em coming!
Kelvin Fowler06/18/11
Noel can you teach me how to take the mess out of message please?

Danielle, do you think that bus to Noel's church could leave from Europe, I would like to come and hear as well.

Well done Noel, I enjoyed the read. I am also into 'trialogue'. Anyhow well done and God bless. Cheers Kel
Patricia Protzman06/18/11
Delightful read and well-written.
I would rather hear a spontaneous message rather than a prewritten one. Your congregation is blessed to have you as their minister.
Leola Ogle 06/18/11
Love, love, love pastors and pastoral stories. This was well written, entertaining and delightful. A definite favorite. God bless!
Joe Moreland06/18/11
Great behind the scenes story. I love how you presented it and how you showed us the hearts of your congregation. I really thought that you opened it up for others to share, you were going to tell us about how that was a mistake (I've heard other pastors say to avoid that at all costs), but I love that you didn't have that experience, that you saw God at work in those moments. Great piece!
Rachel Phelps06/20/11
As a pastor's kid, I've witnessed my fair share of pulpit bloopers and appreciate them greatly. Thanks for the fun read!
Edmond Ng 06/22/11
God is always in control! He alone knows when our final checkout will be. Well written and an excellent piece. I enjoyed the voice of the MC and the spontaneity of how the whole story is relayed.
Phee Paradise 06/23/11
I teach public speaking and I try to instill in my students many of the principles you expressed so well. But they don't get to ask the audience to tell stories too. Preaching is a very special form of public speaking. Too bad not all my students can depend on the Holy Spirit to see them through.