I was in my twenties when I became a preacher of the Bible. Because mine was not a tradition that used the lectionary as a sermon menu, I had to develop annual preaching plans built on the Scriptures as the foundational source of truth. No small responsibility: that. The consistent temptation was to choose biblical themes that suited my temperament, my interests, and my own personal life-challenges. One was drawn to themes that would not offend the congregation or meddle too intimately in the personal affairs of people who were my closer friends or major donors to the church budget.
I recall a most difficult Sunday of conscience-searching when my plan called upon me to preach on what I took to be the biblical view of divorce and marriage. Without telling me she was coming, my mother—newly separated from my father—came to church on a surprise visit. I only saw her face as I stood up to preach. The lesson learned? Every time one preaches, there's probably someone out there ...1