I’ve had sermons I didn’t like before, but a few weeks ago, I had one that I hated with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. I looked at my family over lunch and asked, “Did that, at any point, make ANY sense to anyone at this table?”
In that moment I promised myself to go back to using notes and notebooks to write, no more staring at a computer’s blank screen trying to fill in the blanks of a pre-written outline.
So, last Friday morning, when Tammy and the kids were asleep, I took my note cards and headed north up route 11 until I was ready. Then, I pulled the bike over to the shoulder, put my raincoat down on the wet grass and started writing in an old notebook. I didn’t even think about how odd it must have looked. Not that I was stopped along the road, but that someone was actually using a pen to write on paper.
Eventually, someone did stop. I heard the bike before I saw it, a fully dressed low & loud cruiser with ape-hangers. The rider? A full-patch 1%er. He’s the guy you think of when you think “motorcycle gang.” He stopped because that’s what bikers do. His first question, after he shut the engine off was, “Hey, you ok buddy?”
I told him I was fine, just working on a sermon. He tilted his head like I said I was teaching giraffes to play basketball. Then pulled out a water bottle and we started talking. Eventually, I made some jokes about road-side conversions and that, as a Presbyterian, I could do a baptism from a water bottle. He laughed and said he’d met a lot of pastors on the road and we were always by ourselves. Apparently, none of us mind that he doesn’t believe in God, and make the same road-side conversion joke. But at least the water-bottle baptism was new. Then, his head raised up to the sky and he said, “But I’m starting to think God is trying to tell me something.” I pointed out that statement showed he was starting to believe. He nodded, and started his bike.
Before he was out of ear-shot, what I’d just offered hit me. As a Presbyterian, I’ve taken a vow to uphold our polity and a road-side conversion and baptism are a definite no-no. No proper instruction, no church promise to support him, no public declaration of faith… but after the rumble of his pipes went into the fog in the valley, I couldn’t help but smile. Because I do know, if he’d said yes, we’d talk for a bit, then I’d wipe off the top of my water bottle and douse that guy in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
After all, as a good Presbyterian, it wasn’t luck that put me there, it was God’s providence. And I knew that he and any of his crew that wanted to come to worship would be welcomed at 125 West Main.