I remember when at church, 40 years ago; I was sitting by a friend of mine along with his cousin who brought her new boyfriend. Now the boyfriend hadn't been to church since he was a boy. He seemed like a nice enough fella, but a little more interested in his girlfriend than the sermon.
All that I remember about the sermon is that when I left, I thought to myself, "I wish there were as many "Amen's" as there were laughs. It was a casual easy to hear sermon that, in my assessment, lacked both content and passion.
Soon after, I learned that the boyfriend was actually dating this unsuspecting girl to get to her mother's wealth. The mother was wealthy and he was devising a plan to rob her. Within two weeks from that Sunday sermon, he broke into the mother's house, beat her nearly to death and, in fact, did rob her.
That incident left an indelible mark on me, and I vowed if I were ever to be graced with the privilege of standing behind a pulpit, I would remember that event.
The grace and privilege to preach materialized at the Corrections Center, and each time I prepare to deliver a message, I remind myself that this "boyfriend," or someone like him, may be there. When I look out over the faces gathered there, I know that many have suffered greatly, and someone may be on the verge of committing a crime: a relapse into addiction: maybe even a suicide or some other desperate life crisis.
Now I know not what others do, but as for me, I will stand before that sacred pulpit with the knowledge that God's word is the only tool, and God's Spirit is the only instrument I need, and I pray to be so enveloped by Christ that every word carries conviction, every thought demands decision, every moment is a divine encounter, so help me God!