My First Sermon and Welcome to It

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I joined the Navy when I was still seventeen, and still in high school. It was a delayed entry, so I did not have to report until the next November. That allowed me to graduate (from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor), and to help my family use the summer to move out west, to Moscow, Idaho. When we were all packed up and got into the car to head on out, my father said to my mom, “Bessie, if the best evangelical church in the country is in Moscow, we’re not joining it.” He had had it up to here, but that is another story for another time.

When we got to Moscow, at that time the happening place spiritually was the Lutheran church. This was 1971, and a lot of denominational walls were pretty porous. Some of this was the influence of the Holy Spirit, and some was the influence of the hippies, but the upshot was that non-Lutherans were welcome to attach themselves to the singing group that Emmanuel Lutheran had. That singing group was called Salt Unlimited, and was led by a vivacious young woman named Marva Sedore. I was an attached non-Lutheran guitar player. There was, I don’t know, twenty of us? We sang the contempo-stuff that was going around — Godspell songs, that kind of thing.

One Sunday morning we were slated to perform at a Lutheran church out in the country somewhere near here. I had only been in the region for a matter of weeks, and so I didn’t have a map in my head yet, which is why I have no idea what town it was. When we got there, we discovered that they were not just going to listen to us sing a few songs but rather had turned the entire worship service over to us. Marva took over, assembled all the necessary liturgical pieces and then said something like, “Doug, you have the sermon.”

I recall that I preached on the story of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof in Luke 5. Beyond that, I couldn’t say. And I am not sure that it has been the passing of the years that keeps me from giving more detail than that. It might not have been possible to say what the message was about later that afternoon.

I had just turned eighteen, and cannot now imagine what I was thinking. This is the kind of thing that happens from time to time in church history and which makes the wise observer shake his head, more in sorrow than in anger, trying to keep his forehead from getting too hot.

Many years later I was listening to a Mars Hill audio interview, in which Ken Myers was talking with the noted Lutheran theologian Marva Dawn. As they were talking, a few biographical details came out that made me think something along the lines of now wait a minute . . . And sure enough. It turns out that Lutherans are responsible for lots of things.



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