Sometime in June I got a note in Chinese sent to my office e-mail in Taiwan. I was in the USA on sabbatical at the time. Though I read Chinese, I read it slowly (perhaps even painfully). After looking at it a while, I realized it was from a friend who is in a leadership position in a Presbytery (the local association of churches) in Taiwan. He was inviting me to deliver a sermon at an ecumenical committee event to be held on September 4th. There being MONTHS before the event, I answered “Yes”. He responded that details would follow.
On August 20th I returned home to Taiwan. I made sending him the information he’d need one of my first priorities, and by the 23rd had a sermon title, scripture text, litany and two selected hymns sent his way. He responded with thanks.
I spent parts of the next few days writing the sermon, then put together a set of 60 slides on the theme, to run on a screen (one slide, 20 seconds) beside me as I spoke. I’ve been experimenting with this lately, trying to figure out if it detracts from, enhances, or does nothing to a sermon.
Today, just before heading out to the train station to go to the event, sermon manuscript in hand, I realized that the slide show was still on my office computer. I ran over to the office and put it on a flash memory. I was back home in time to get in the car to the station and make my train.
The event went well. I don’t know if the sermon was any good or not, and whether or not the slides helped is still up for grabs. After things were over, I had a very interesting encounter.
A man whom I estimate to be somewhere on the far side of 50 years of age stopped me and wanted to talk. He said that since he was a child he had been receiving direct messages from God, who had told him that he is an American. He put God off decade by decade, but eventually decided that he had to become a Christian. His instructions are that he should go to Princeton Theological Seminary and then make a contribution to the furtherance of the gospel in America. Among other things, he suggests that in the tower that has replaced the NY World Trade Center there has to be a church, so that God will watch over that building. St. Paul’s chapel next door isn’t good enough, the church has to be in the building. He said that God had told him about 9-11 before it happened, but he hadn’t told anyone about it because he wasn’t yet a Christian then, so wasn’t sure.
These and other conversations happened over the buffet meal that was served after the event. They happened instead of the conversations that I wanted to have, about whether pictures running as a visual sermon while I preach a a spoken one are helpful or not. I’ll have to find other times to try the method.