She was an attractive lady, seemingly well cultured and certainly fashion aware. I was sitting in a booth at a restaurant in a neighborhood where I’d once been the pastor. Now, I should insert here that we Methodist pastors vow that when we are moved we move. That is, it’s just now proper for a pastor who once served Sleepy Valley Church to return to Sleepy Valley Church unless the pastor of Sleepy Valley Church specifically invites us to do so. But, seeing as how I’d been away from that particular church for more than two-and-a-half decades, and seeing as how there had been four pastors serving Sleepy Valley Church since they chased me off, I made an exception. Besides, I had never forgotten my obsession with the Red Flannel Hash dish ( a concoction of eggs, hashbrowns, peppers, onions, and goodness knows what else went with the hot sauce ) that was the trademark of the place.
No one recognized me. I ate in peace. I did so, that is, until the attractive lady approached my booth.
“Oh, my goodness,” she said. “It’s you. Do you remember me?”
I stared at her. Suddenly the dilemma that so often confronts preachers of my advanced age confronted me. I didn’t. Her facial features conjured up no semblance of recognition. I was stumped.
“Come on,” she said. “You baptized me when I was an infant.”
I wrapped in myself into my consummate skill of diverting attention away from my obvious limitations. “Oh, my goodness, of course, you haven’t changed a bit.” She accepted that. Funny. We talked a moment. She never gave me her name. I felt guilty. I used her name at the baptism, I’m sure, but I was still at a loss for recognition. She told me she’d like to catch up on things but she had a meeting and she left.
Whew! That could have been embarrassment. I had no idea who the woman was. Escape complete I turned my attention back to the Red Flannel Hash.
I was almost finished with the Red Flannel Hash when another voice interrupted my gluttony. “I can’t believe it’s you. You are a sight for sore eyes.”
This time I was relieved. It was Edna Robinson. I knew her name. She was a member of the church I used to pastor. She’d matured a bit, as had I. But it was a joy to know she recognized me after all these years.
We talked for a few minutes. And then she began to expound on a wonderful sermon I preached while I was her pastor. She gave me the scripture. She listed the three points of the sermon, including with each point the illustrations I used. It was absolutely wonderful to think someone would remember a sermon I’d preached almost two decades ago.
I was wrapped in self-satisfaction, skills as a homiletic orator confirmed. I wondered if the professor who’d taught preaching in seminary every had a sermon decades old remembered. I doubted it.
And then, suddenly, it dawned upon me. I never preached such a sermon. A further realization hit me. Art Fletched had. Art was a student intern at the church. He’d preached the sermon. And she thought I’d preached it. Suddenly, I was faced with a problem. Should I admit I didn’t preach the sermon?
“You know,” she said, “as good as the sermon was I think the theology was really faulty.”Poor Art. He tried.