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When Words About God Become the Word of the Lord

Decades of listening to sermons have convinced me of these four truths.
When Words About God Become the Word of the Lord
Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source image: York Creative / Lightstock

By any account the past six months have been the hardest time in my life. The challenges of keeping a university safe and open amid a pandemic has meant reinventing much of what we do in teaching, research, housing, dining, student life, and athletics. In this time of unprecedented professional stress, I have been thrown back on the deepest resources I can grasp. Among them is the rich tradition of preaching that has been my portion—in my youth, in my studies as a religious historian, and in my week-to-week experience in church.

Though never a preacher, I have lived a life in sermons. My father, James “Buck” Hatch, was an exceptional minister and teacher who set a very high standard for communicating from the pulpit and lectern. His gift was not eloquence per se but a rare ability of speaking in ways that actually changed outlooks and lives. Almost two decades after his death, I still get notes from people whose lives were powerfully transformed by his spoken word.

These ...

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