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Monday, July 13, 2009

Polished Speaking

When we were still "young people" in the OPC there was a Presbytery-wide youth group known as the "Machen League". It was a fond reference to our beloved founder of the OPC. As a new believer, and barely still a teen ager, I found myself a vice president of the Machen League of Southern California. It was in that capacity that I traveled from my home church, Westminster, Eagle Rock, to Long Beach to address the troops about commitment. It was a mini sermon. I had just made reference to Jesus' shocking demand that His disciples hate father, mother, wife and brother in order to follow Him. I told the young people that He did not really mean "hate" but simply used hyperbole to emphasize the priority of love to Him. To support my exegesis, I pointed out that the Scripture actually commands husbands to love their wives. As accurate as my intentions were, the execution of them left something to be desired. From the podium I was heard to say, "Husbands obey your wives." We all had a good laugh. I was proud of my composure when I paused to say, "Okay, we had our laugh, but the point is important." Then I went on to quote the Scripture and said the same words again: "Husbands obey your wives." Well, there was no more regaining of composure after that.

I discovered that day, before ever attending seminary or being ordained, just how easy it is to get my tongue tangled on my eye tooth so I couldn't see what I was saying. Since that time I have reminded a congregation of worshippers how during Jesus' time Israel was under the "roke of yome". That one was dangerous because it was a phrase that just seemed to roll off my tongue so smoothly that it seemed right.

My only comfort in the public speaking gaff department is that my dear friend, Carl Erickson, has thrown a few out there that top mine by quite a large margin. When he said that Moses refused to be called the daughter of Pharaoh's son, his mother-in-law turned to his wife and said, "Frankly, I don't blame him." When getting to a place in history during his preaching, he said, "You all remember VD day in Europe."

His congregation threw him a great party, celebrating his 40 years of ministry in the same congregation, so I guess they find him that much more lovable for his human ability to Malaprop his way through a sermon. Ministers are also frail creatures who need plenty of love, overlooking their gaffs.

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