By WALTER ALBRITTON
In the beginning my preaching was so poor that some people were going to sleep before I got halfway to the benediction. Lacking confidence, I was using a manuscript and reading my sermons. With characteristic candor, my dear wife finally said, “Why don’t you just mimeograph your sermons and hand everyone a copy after the offering? The people would appreciate getting out early every Sunday.”
I knew she didn’t mean for me to do that so I struggled to get rid of my manuscript. Several Sundays later I had whittled the paperwork down to five note cards. But Dean would say, “You looked at your notes too much.” And when, with mighty effort, I got down to one note card, she was still not satisfied.
Finally, one Sunday I yielded to her relentless pressure and walked into the pulpit with nothing but my Bible in my hands. And I was utterly amazed to discover that I could preach without notes. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life as a young pastor. Its greatest benefit was allowing me to maintain eye contact with people while proclaiming the good news of Jesus.
However, a few folks, mainly old men, were still going to sleep during my sermons. Amos Brewton in Pensacola trusted me so much that he was asleep before I finished reading my scripture. One memorial moment occurred on a hot summer Sunday night before churches were air-conditioned.
The sanctuary doors and windows were open so Snoozey, our little Dachshund, being outside, could hear me preaching. Our parsonage was next door. Snoozey decided to investigate and soon began walking down the middle aisle of the church, coming straight toward me. I stopped preaching and in a loud voice shouted, “Snoozey, go home!”
Not realizing I was speaking to my dog, Tom English elbowed Amos and said loud enough to be heard, “Amos, the preacher is talking to you! Wake up!” Startled, Amos woke up and said loudly, “You got to be kidding!”
When the congregation began laughing, and finally saw Snoozey trotting up to the pulpit instead of going home, I knew it was time to tie the caboose onto my sermon so we could all go home in a good mood.
After that I decided to begin shouting and singing in my sermons now and then — and the old men stayed awake — most of the time. I am not sure how to justify singing in a sermon but shouting is quite biblical. I began by shouting “Hallelujah!” after a major point in my sermon. After all, Handel’s Messiah has made “hallelujah” one of the most beloved words in every language.
Then I worked diligently to condense each sermon to a few words — a phrase I could shout several times, often enough that everyone would leave church with that phrase stored in their minds. One example is the phrase, “Let God Use It!” — which summed up a sermon on our need to let God use our afflictions to strengthen our faith.
All of this culminated in a decision to inject the one word, “Glory,” into my preaching, writing and conversation. The word “glory” covers a wide range of meanings. I use it like a trumpet call to remind us all to celebrate the glory of God especially as revealed in Jesus Christ, who is truly the glory of God. While the heavens, and all creation, unveil the glory of God, His glory was supremely revealed in the face of Jesus. For me the words “glory” and “Jesus” are synonymous, so to shout “Glory!” is to shout “Jesus!”
While the madness, evil and suffering of the world invites us to sink into despair, God invites us to rejoice and dance in His glory. So when I shout “Glory” I am saying “Yes” to God’s gracious invitation made indelibly clear in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.