Faith Matters - In 500 words or lessThis newspaper writing gig is tough for a verbose pastor-type like me. I attempt to communicate in a measly 500 words or less a faith message of our Living God that the Scripture says, “passes all understanding.”
By: Kent Stillson, Pastor, Alexandria Echo Press
This newspaper writing gig is tough for a verbose pastor-type like me. I attempt to communicate in a measly 500 words or less a faith message of our Living God that the Scripture says, “passes all understanding.”
Please don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that a fine paper such as the Echo Press will provide space for religious pondering. It’s just that we religious folks are not known for brevity. Let me give you a few examples of my partners in non-brevity.
Though Moses had some sort of speech impediment (Exodus 4:10), he wrote at length. According to tradition, Moses wrote the first five Books of the Bible. In my Bible that’s 245 pages!
Jesus wrote nothing but spoke at length, words filling the New Testament. When asked a short question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a lengthy Good Samaritan story to make the point: any person in need is your neighbor. (There were other points in this parable too, but my computer word count feature is quickly tallying upward.)
Another time Jesus was challenged to condense the 613 Jewish Laws into one. Even the Son of God couldn’t do it! It took him twice as many, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And there is another like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”
The patron saint of long-windedness has to be the Apostle Paul. Acts 20 tells of a time when Paul’s preaching went late into the night. A teenager named Eutychus nodded off to sleep, fell out an open window and was killed.
Paul rushed to where the boy lay, prayed and restored the boy to life. One would think this would have broken up the preaching frenzy. But no! Paul took on a little nourishment and proceeded to preach until daybreak.
I admit: I have had people fall asleep during my preaching, though, of course, none from my current parish. At least I didn’t kill anyone!
What is my point in describing the challenge of preacherly brevity?
If in my writing I miss something or simplify a profound thought too much, know that I left it out either by ignorance or for the sake of newspaper space. Unlike my sermons, in this venue I can blame the editor for putting on the squeeze.
My family has often volunteered to be my editor, but I’m not sure what they want to do with my sermons could be called “editing.”
Now that I have confessed my windy ways, I leave you with several short Bible verses that say much with few words.
“I am the bread of life” points out how important Jesus is for humans. “He wept” shows Jesus’ humanity and sadness at Lazarus’ death. With “pray without ceasing” and “rejoice always,” Paul instructs the Christian. “My Lord and my God,” the doubter Thomas declared when he met the resurrected Lord. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” You know where that comes from.
I’m now at 500.
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Kent Stillson is a pastor at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Alexandria. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.