Tuesday, February 23, 2010

By David Horn, ThD
Director, The Ockenga Institute

I just hosted Will Willimon at a pastor’s event. His bio includes the fact that he has written sixty books. Do the math. Will Willimon is sixty plus years old. He has written sixty books. Aside for this fact about him, I really liked him.
It has taken me over a year and a half to write my little book and I am still not finished. But, it is this monthly obligation—opportunity—to blog to you that has sent me scurrying to my anthology of modern poetry.
E.E. Cummings has a wonderful little poem called [a man who had fallen among thieves]. In it he speaks of “a man who had fallen among thieves lay by the roadside on his back dressed in fifteenthrate ideas.” “Fifteenthrate ideas.” That’s me on most days. Asked to periodically pull my way away from the minutia of my administrative position here at the seminary, asked to pull my way away from the settled, undisturbed pond of my own middle age lifestyle, you would think I could come up with a first rate idea at least once a month that could provoke or cajole, or at least mildly stimulate another person.
I find that most of the time I wake up in the morning with a head full of fifteenthrate ideas. They actually seem like first-rate ideas when I am between that lukewarm time period between twilight and dawn when it is difficult distinguishing between dream and awakenness. But, when the sun comes up and the light shines on these great ideas, they fade like a bad pair of jeans.
And then I think of a pastor who every Monday morning must look deep into the lens of Scripture—every week—and the expectation is to craft a new sermon full of first rate ideas for the next Sunday. He or she has to start all over again, every week., month after month, year after year. From the perspective of the pew, is there anything worse than sitting down to a sermon full of fifteenthrate ideas?
Don’t get me wrong; Scripture is filled to the brim with first-rate ideas. Christ’s atoning work on the cross, as it finds its way through the annuls of the Old Testament and as it bears fruit in the final pages of Revelation, is the ultimate great idea. But, why is it that most of us have to be convinced of this every Sunday? Most pastors find their sanctuaries filled with expectations of something more than the simple call of the Gospel. They want something with a little more pizzazz, a bit more luster.
Why is this? More to the point, why am I stuck with this fifteenthrate idea in writing this blog?

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