Wednesday, November 17, 2004

206 Fifteen minutes with a Condemned Man

A middle aged woman in your congregation asks to see you privately. In tears, she tells you her son has exhausted his appeals in the courts, and will be executed next Friday morning. You are trying to get your mind around this startling fact as she describes the heinous crime with tears pooling behind her glasses.

How could this be, you wonder. Such a good, kind, decent family--you've known them for years, your predecessor baptized their children, including the condemned man. But this chapter in their life's story had never been revealed in choir, church dinners, food pantry or at the communion rail.

You're brought up short and bumped out of your fog when she asks, no, begs you to spend 15 minutes with him before he dies. Just 15 minutes to tell him about Jesus, she pleads. Your mind races. No anecdotes. No cute family stories from your past. No sorting through what Jesus might have meant in the parables. No clarification of values. No vague references to "our hope." No sports analogies. No vision for church growth. No theological Old Testament types or prophecy to point to the New Testament. Just 15 minutes before a condemned sinner is escorted to the death chamber.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The alarm. You wake up. You're in a sweat, the sheets are soaked. Whew. It was a nightmare, thank God. It's a new day. It's preparation day--sermon polishing day. Your heart sinks. You realize as never before you now have to plan a sermon of 15 minutes to tell 700 condemned sinners about Jesus. Maybe the nightmare isn't over?

As your head clears, the words of confession begin to creep in. . .phrase by phrase, a bit rusty from disuse.

we poor sinners confess
we are sinful and unclean
we have sinned in thought, word and deed
we flee to your infinite mercy for grace
for the sake of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ

who was given to die for we poor sinners
and for his sake, God grant remission of our sins
and give the Holy Spirit enabling us to be obedient
to become the children of God
and to receive everlasting life.

Yes, there's a good foundational message for the condemned-to-die on which to build a message of hope and 21st century relevance for Sunday's sermon.

1 comment:

off shore fisherman said...

Many a Sunday I jolt awake with just that thought.
Preaching to dead men walking...
And no one is more concerned then the One who gives us the words.